Mutations in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) are associated with increased risk for developing Parkinson's disease (PD). Previously, we found that LRRK2 G2019S mutation carriers have increased mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage and after zinc finger nuclease-mediated gene mutation correction, mtDNA damage was no longer detectable. While the mtDNA damage phenotype can be unambiguously attributed to the LRRK2 G2019S mutation, the underlying mechanism(s) is unknown. Here, we examine the role of LRRK2 kinase function in LRRK2 G2019S-mediated mtDNA damage, using both genetic and pharmacological approaches in cultured neurons and PD patient-derived cells. Expression of LRRK2 G2019S induced mtDNA damage in primary rat midbrain neurons, but not in cortical neuronal cultures. In contrast, the expression of LRRK2 wild type or LRRK2 D1994A mutant (kinase dead) had no effect on mtDNA damage in either midbrain or cortical neuronal cultures. In addition, human LRRK2 G2019S patient-derived lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) demonstrated increased mtDNA damage relative to age-matched controls. Importantly, treatment of LRRK2 G2019S expressing midbrain neurons or patient-derived LRRK2 G2019S LCLs with the LRRK2 kinase inhibitor GNE-7915, either prevented or restored mtDNA damage to control levels. These findings support the hypothesis that LRRK2 G2019S-induced mtDNA damage is LRRK2 kinase activity dependent, uncovering a novel pathological role for this kinase. Blocking or reversing mtDNA damage via LRRK2 kinase inhibition or other therapeutic approaches may be useful to slow PD-associated pathology.
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