Mutations in Parkin (PARK2), which encodes an E3 ubiquitin ligase implicated in mitophagy, are the most common cause of early-onset Parkinson's disease (EOPD). Hundreds of naturally occurring Parkin variants have been reported, both in Parkinson's disease (PD) patient and population databases. However, the effects of the majority of these variants on the function of Parkin and in PD pathogenesis remain unknown. Here we develop a framework for classification of the pathogenicity of Parkin variants based on the integration of clinical and functional evidence-including measures of mitophagy and protein stability and predictive structural modeling-and assess 51 naturally occurring Parkin variants accordingly. Surprisingly, only a minority of Parkin variants, even among those previously associated with PD, disrupted Parkin function. Moreover, a few of these naturally occurring Parkin variants actually enhanced mitophagy. Interestingly, impaired mitophagy in several of the most common pathogenic Parkin variants could be rescued both by naturally occurring (p.V224A) and structure-guided designer (p.W403A; p.F146A) hyperactive Parkin variants. Together, the findings provide a coherent framework to classify Parkin variants based on pathogenicity and suggest that several pathogenic Parkin variants represent promising targets to stratify patients for genotype-specific drug design.
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