Parkinson's disease is a sporadic and common neurodegenerative movement disorder resulting from the complex interplay between genetic risk, aging and environmental exposure. Familial forms of PD account for ~10% of cases and are known to result from the inheritance of mutations in at least 15 genes. Mutations in the vacuolar protein sorting 35 ortholog (VPS35) gene cause late-onset, autosomal dominant familial PD. VPS35 is a key suunit of the pentameric retromer complex that plays a role in the retrograde sorting and recycling of transmembrane cargo proteins from endosomes to the plasma membrane and trans-Golgi network. A single heterozygous Asp620Asn (D620N) mutation in VPS35 has been identified in multiple families that segregates with PD, and a number of experimental cellular and animal models have been developed to understand its pathogenic effects. At the molecular level, the D620N mutation has been shown to impair the interaction of VPS35 with the WASH complex, that plays an accessory function in retromer-dependent sorting. In addition, the D620N mutation has been linked to the abnormal sorting of retromer cargo, including CI-M6PR, AMPA receptor subunits, MUL1, LAMP2a and ATG9A, as well as to LRRK2 hyperactivation. At the cellular level, data support an impact of D620N VPS35 on mitochondrial function, the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, Wnt signaling and neurotransmission via altered endosomal sorting. The relevance of abnormal retromer sorting and cellular pathways to PD-related neurodegenerative phenotypes induced by D620N VPS35 in rodent models is not yet clear. There is also uncertainty regarding the mechanism-of-action of the D620N mutation and whether it manifests pathogenic effects in animal models and PD through a gain-of-function and/or a partial dominant-negative mechanism. Here, we discuss the emerging molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying PD induced by familial VPS35 mutations, going from structure to cellular function to neuropathology. We further discuss studies linking reduced retromer function to other neurodegenerative diseases and potential therapeutic strategies to normalize retromer function to mitigate disease.
Keywords: Golgi; LRRK2; Lysosome; Mitochondria; Parkinson’s disease (PD); VPS35; endosome; retromer; vesicular sorting.