Dopaminergic neurodegeneration induced by Parkinson's disease-linked G2019S LRRK2 is dependent on kinase and GTPase activity

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jul 21;117(29):17296-17307. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1922184117. Epub 2020 Jul 6.


Mutations in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) are the most common cause of late-onset, autosomal-dominant familial Parkinson's disease (PD). LRRK2 functions as both a kinase and GTPase, and PD-linked mutations are known to influence both enzymatic activities. While PD-linked LRRK2 mutations can commonly induce neuronal damage in culture models, the mechanisms underlying these pathogenic effects remain uncertain. Rodent models containing familial LRRK2 mutations often lack robust PD-like neurodegenerative phenotypes. Here, we develop a robust preclinical model of PD in adult rats induced by the brain delivery of recombinant adenoviral vectors with neuronal-specific expression of human LRRK2 harboring the most common G2019S mutation. In this model, G2019S LRRK2 induces the robust degeneration of substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons, a pathological hallmark of PD. Introduction of a stable kinase-inactive mutation or administration of the selective kinase inhibitor, PF-360, attenuates neurodegeneration induced by G2019S LRRK2. Neuroprotection provided by pharmacological kinase inhibition is mediated by an unusual mechanism involving the robust destabilization of human LRRK2 protein in the brain relative to endogenous LRRK2. Our study further demonstrates that G2019S LRRK2-induced dopaminergic neurodegeneration critically requires normal GTPase activity, as hypothesis-testing mutations that increase GTP hydrolysis or impair GTP-binding activity provide neuroprotection although via distinct mechanisms. Taken together, our data demonstrate that G2019S LRRK2 induces neurodegeneration in vivo via a mechanism that is dependent on kinase and GTPase activity. Our study provides a robust rodent preclinical model of LRRK2-linked PD and nominates kinase inhibition and modulation of GTPase activity as promising disease-modifying therapeutic targets.

Keywords: GTPase; LRRK2; Rab; kinase; neurodegeneration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Female
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2 / genetics
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mutation
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Pilot Projects
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Substantia Nigra


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • LRRK2 protein, rat
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • Dopamine