Phosphorylation of amyloid precursor protein by mutant LRRK2 promotes AICD activity and neurotoxicity in Parkinson's disease

Sci Signal. 2017 Jul 18;10(488):eaam6790. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aam6790.


Mutations in LRRK2, which encodes leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, are the most common genetic cause of familial and sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD), a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that causes impaired motor function and, in advanced stages, dementia. Dementia is a common symptom of another neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer's disease, and research suggests that there may be pathophysiological and genetic links between the two diseases. Aggregates of β amyloid [a protein produced through cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP)] are seen in both diseases and in PD patients carrying G2019S-mutant LRRK2. Using patient-derived cells, brain tissue, and PD model mice, we found that LRRK2 interacted with and phosphorylated APP at Thr668 within its intracellular domain (AICD). Phosphorylation of APP at Thr668 promoted AICD transcriptional activity and correlated with increased nuclear abundance of AICD and decreased abundance of a dopaminergic neuron marker in cultures and brain tissue. The AICD regulates the transcription of genes involved in cytoskeletal dynamics and apoptosis. Overexpression of AICD, but not a phosphodeficient mutant (AICDT668A), increased the loss of dopaminergic neurons in older mice expressing LRRK2G2019S Moreover, the amount of Thr668-phosphorylated APP was substantially greater in postmortem brain tissue and dopaminergic neurons (generated by reprogramming skin cells) from LRRK2G2019S patients than in those from healthy individuals. LRRK2 inhibitors reduced the phosphorylation of APP at Thr668 in the patient-derived dopaminergic neurons and in the midbrains of LRRK2G2019S mice. Thus, APP is a substrate of LRRK2, and its phosphorylation promotes AICD function and neurotoxicity in PD.

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2 / genetics
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2 / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation*
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs*


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Dopamine