New insights into the structure of PINK1 and the mechanism of ubiquitin phosphorylation

Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2018 Oct;53(5):515-534. doi: 10.1080/10409238.2018.1491525. Epub 2018 Sep 21.


Mutations in PINK1 cause early-onset recessive Parkinson's disease. This gene encodes a protein kinase implicated in mitochondrial quality control via ubiquitin phosphorylation and activation of the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin. Here, we review and analyze functional features emerging from recent crystallographic, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry studies of PINK1. We compare the apo and ubiquitin-bound PINK1 structures and reveal an allosteric switch, regulated by autophosphorylation, which modulates substrate recognition. We critically assess the conformational changes taking place in ubiquitin and the Parkin ubiquitin-like domain in relation to its binding to PINK1. Finally, we discuss the implications of these biophysical findings in our understanding of the role of PINK1 in mitochondrial function, and analyze the potential for structure-based drug design.

Keywords: PINK1; Parkin; Parkinson’s disease; kinase; mitochondria; phosphorylation; structure; ubiquitin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mitophagy
  • Models, Molecular
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Kinases / chemistry
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin / chemistry
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / chemistry
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism


  • Ubiquitin
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • parkin protein
  • Protein Kinases
  • PTEN-induced putative kinase

Grants and funding