Phosphoproteomic screening identifies Rab GTPases as novel downstream targets of PINK1

EMBO J. 2015 Nov 12;34(22):2840-61. doi: 10.15252/embj.201591593. Epub 2015 Oct 15.


Mutations in the PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) are causative of autosomal recessive Parkinson's disease (PD). We have previously reported that PINK1 is activated by mitochondrial depolarisation and phosphorylates serine 65 (Ser(65)) of the ubiquitin ligase Parkin and ubiquitin to stimulate Parkin E3 ligase activity. Here, we have employed quantitative phosphoproteomics to search for novel PINK1-dependent phosphorylation targets in HEK (human embryonic kidney) 293 cells stimulated by mitochondrial depolarisation. This led to the identification of 14,213 phosphosites from 4,499 gene products. Whilst most phosphosites were unaffected, we strikingly observed three members of a sub-family of Rab GTPases namely Rab8A, 8B and 13 that are all phosphorylated at the highly conserved residue of serine 111 (Ser(111)) in response to PINK1 activation. Using phospho-specific antibodies raised against Ser(111) of each of the Rabs, we demonstrate that Rab Ser(111) phosphorylation occurs specifically in response to PINK1 activation and is abolished in HeLa PINK1 knockout cells and mutant PINK1 PD patient-derived fibroblasts stimulated by mitochondrial depolarisation. We provide evidence that Rab8A GTPase Ser(111) phosphorylation is not directly regulated by PINK1 in vitro and demonstrate in cells the time course of Ser(111) phosphorylation of Rab8A, 8B and 13 is markedly delayed compared to phosphorylation of Parkin at Ser(65). We further show mechanistically that phosphorylation at Ser(111) significantly impairs Rab8A activation by its cognate guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF), Rabin8 (by using the Ser111Glu phosphorylation mimic). These findings provide the first evidence that PINK1 is able to regulate the phosphorylation of Rab GTPases and indicate that monitoring phosphorylation of Rab8A/8B/13 at Ser(111) may represent novel biomarkers of PINK1 activity in vivo. Our findings also suggest that disruption of Rab GTPase-mediated signalling may represent a major mechanism in the neurodegenerative cascade of Parkinson's disease.

Keywords: PINK1; Parkinson's disease; Rab GTPases; phosphoproteomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Enzyme Activation / genetics
  • Germinal Center Kinases
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / genetics
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / metabolism*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / pathology
  • Phosphorylation / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Germinal Center Kinases
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Rab8b protein, human
  • Protein Kinases
  • PTEN-induced putative kinase
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • RAB13 protein, human
  • RAB8A protein, human
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins