Year 1

Mitochondria are a cell’s power plants that provide almost all the energy a cell needs. When these cellular power plants are damaged by stressful factors present in aging neurons, they release toxins (reactive oxygen species) to the rest of the neuron that can cause neuronal cell death (neurodegeneration). Healthy cells have an elegant mitochondrial quality control system to clear dysfunctional mitochondria and prevent their resultant devastation. It is not surprising that the impairment in this mitochondrial quality control system has been linked to Parkinson’s disease (PD), one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. Based on my work that Parkinson’s associated proteins PINK1 and Parkin halt mitochondrial transport that might be essential for the damaged mitochondrial clearance, I hypothesized that in Parkinson’s mutant neurons mitochondrial quality control is impaired thereby leading to neurodegeneration, in the original application. For the past year, we have made substantial progress in achieving the specific aims. Briefly, we found that the pathogenic G2019S mutation in LRRK2 increases mitochondrial movement and disrupts mitochondrial quality control. These functional deficits are present in multiple independent disease models, including induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons and skin fibroblasts from familial PD patients. Mutations in LRRK2 are the most frequent cause of PD. Intriguingly, we also identified the same mitochondrial impairments in sporadic PD patients. Thus, disrupted mitochondrial quality control may constitute a central component of PD pathogenesis. Remarkably, arresting mitochondrial motility by genetic manipulations in LRRK2G2019S iPSC-derived neurons restores mitochondrial quality control and rescues neurodegeneration. We therefore propose that therapeutic targeting of mitochondrial quality control may be broadly effective for multiple forms of PD, including sporadic cases.