Mitochondrial dysfunction is an early, imminent event in neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson disease (PD) and Alzheimer disease (AD). The enzymatic pair PINK1 and PRKN/Parkin recognize and transiently label damaged mitochondria with ubiquitin (Ub) phosphorylated at Ser65 (p-S65-Ub) as a signal for degradation via the autophagy-lysosome system (mitophagy). Despite its discovery in cell culture several years ago, robust and quantitative detection of altered mitophagy in vivo has remained challenging. Here we developed a sandwich ELISA targeting p-S65-Ub with the goal to assess mitophagy levels in mouse brain and in human clinical and pathological samples. We characterized five total Ub and four p-S65-Ub antibodies by several techniques and found significant differences in their ability to recognize phosphorylated Ub. The most sensitive antibody pair detected recombinant p-S65-Ub chains in the femtomolar to low picomolar range depending on the poly-Ub chain linkage. Importantly, this ELISA was able to assess very low baseline mitophagy levels in unstressed human cells and in brains from wild-type and prkn knockout mice as well as elevated p-S65-Ub levels in autopsied frontal cortex from AD patients vs. control cases. Moreover, the assay allowed detection of p-S65-Ub in blood plasma and was able to discriminate between PINK1 mutation carriers and controls. In summary, we developed a robust and sensitive tool to measure mitophagy levels in cells, tissue, and body fluids. Our data strongly support the idea that the stress-activated PINK1-PRKN mitophagy pathway is constitutively active in mice and humans under unstimulated, physiological and elevated in diseased, pathological conditions.Abbreviations: Ab: antibody; AD: Alzheimer disease; AP: alkaline phosphatase; CV: coefficient of variation; ECL: electrochemiluminescence; KO: knockout; LoB: Limit of Blank; LoD: Limit of Detection; LoQ: Limit of Quantification; MSD: meso scale discovery; PD: Parkinson disease; p-S65-PRKN: phosphorylated PRKN at serine 65; p-S65-Ub: phosphorylated ubiquitin at serine 65; Std.Dev.: standard deviation; Ub: ubiquitin; WT: wild type.
Keywords: Alzheimer disease; PINK1; PRKN; Parkin; Parkinson disease; autophagy; mitophagy; ubiquitin.