The unlikely partnership between LRRK2 and α-synuclein in Parkinson's disease

Eur J Neurosci. 2019 Feb;49(3):339-363. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14182. Epub 2018 Oct 24.


Our understanding of the mechanisms underlying Parkinson's disease, the once archetypical nongenetic neurogenerative disorder, has dramatically increased with the identification of α-synuclein and LRRK2 pathogenic mutations. While α-synuclein protein composes the aggregates that can spread through much of the brain in disease, LRRK2 encodes a multidomain dual-enzyme distinct from any other protein linked to neurodegeneration. In this review, we discuss emergent datasets from multiple model systems that suggest these unlikely partners do interact in important ways in disease, both within cells that express both LRRK2 and α-synuclein as well as through more indirect pathways that might involve neuroinflammation. Although the link between LRRK2 and disease can be understood in part through LRRK2 kinase activity (phosphotransferase activity), α-synuclein toxicity is multilayered and plausibly interacts with LRRK2 kinase activity in several ways. We discuss common protein interactors like 14-3-3s that may regulate α-synuclein and LRRK2 in disease. Finally, we examine cellular pathways and outcomes common to both mutant α-synuclein expression and LRRK2 activity and points of intersection. Understanding the interplay between these two unlikely partners in disease may provide new therapeutic avenues for PD.

Keywords: Parkinson; aggregation; autophagy; mitochondria; mitophagy; neurodegeneration; neuroinflammation; prion-like propagation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2 / adverse effects*
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2 / genetics
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2 / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • alpha-Synuclein / adverse effects*
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism


  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2