Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 interacts with p21-activated kinase 6 to control neurite complexity in mammalian brain

J Neurochem. 2015 Dec;135(6):1242-56. doi: 10.1111/jnc.13369. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) is a causative gene for Parkinson's disease, but the physiological function and the mechanism(s) by which the cellular activity of LRRK2 is regulated are poorly understood. Here, we identified p21-activated kinase 6 (PAK6) as a novel interactor of the GTPase/ROC domain of LRRK2. p21-activated kinases are serine-threonine kinases that serve as targets for the small GTP binding proteins Cdc42 and Rac1 and have been implicated in different morphogenetic processes through remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton such as synapse formation and neuritogenesis. Using an in vivo neuromorphology assay, we show that PAK6 is a positive regulator of neurite outgrowth and that LRRK2 is required for this function. Analyses of post-mortem brain tissue from idiopathic and LRRK2 G2019S carriers reveal an increase in PAK6 activation state, whereas knock-out LRRK2 mice display reduced PAK6 activation and phosphorylation of PAK6 substrates. Taken together, these results support a critical role of LRRK2 GTPase domain in cytoskeletal dynamics in vivo through the novel interactor PAK6, and provide a valuable platform to unravel the mechanism underlying LRRK2-mediated pathophysiology. We propose p21-activated kinase 6 (PAK6) as a novel interactor of leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), a kinase involved in Parkinson's disease (PD). In health, PAK6 regulates neurite complexity in the brain and LRRK2 is required for its function, (a) whereas PAK6 is aberrantly activated in LRRK2-linked PD brain (b) suggesting that LRRK2 toxicity is mediated by PAK6.

Keywords: LRRK2; Parkinson's disease; neurodegeneration; neuronal cyto-skeleton; p21-activated kinases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leucine / genetics*
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neurites / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*
  • p21-Activated Kinases / genetics*
  • p21-Activated Kinases / metabolism


  • LRRK2 protein, human
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Lrrk2 protein, mouse
  • PAK6 protein, human
  • Pak6 protein, mouse
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • p21-Activated Kinases
  • Leucine