Loss-of-function mutations in PINK1 or parkin genes are associated with juvenile-onset autosomal recessive forms of Parkinson disease. Numerous studies have established that PINK1 and parkin participate in a common mitochondrial-quality control pathway, promoting the selective degradation of dysfunctional mitochondria by mitophagy. Upregulation of parkin mRNA and protein levels has been proposed as protective mechanism against mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. To better understand how parkin could exert protective function we considered the possibility that it could modulate the ER-mitochondria inter-organelles cross talk. To verify this hypothesis we investigated the effects of parkin overexpression on ER-mitochondria crosstalk with respect to the regulation of two key cellular parameters: Ca(2+) homeostasis and ATP production. Our results indicate that parkin overexpression in model cells physically and functionally enhanced ER-mitochondria coupling, favored Ca(2+) transfer from the ER to the mitochondria following cells stimulation with an 1,4,5 inositol trisphosphate (InsP(3)) generating agonist and increased the agonist-induced ATP production. The overexpression of a parkin mutant lacking the first 79 residues (ΔUbl) failed to enhance the mitochondrial Ca(2+) transients, thus highlighting the importance of the N-terminal ubiquitin like domain for the observed phenotype. siRNA-mediated parkin silencing caused mitochondrial fragmentation, impaired mitochondrial Ca(2+) handling and reduced the ER-mitochondria tethering. These data support a novel role for parkin in the regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis, Ca(2+) signaling and energy metabolism under physiological conditions.
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