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1.  Regulation and targeting of enzymes mediating Parkinson's disease pathogenesis: focus on Parkinson's disease kinases, GTPases, and ATPases 
PMCID: PMC4114254  PMID: 25120428
LRRK2; ATP13A2; PINK1; tau proteins; alpha-Synuclein; ROCO proteins; phosphorylation
2.  A Direct Interaction between Leucine-rich Repeat Kinase 2 and Specific β-Tubulin Isoforms Regulates Tubulin Acetylation* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;289(2):895-908.
Background: Mutations in the gene encoding leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) cause Parkinson disease.
Results: LRRK2 binds directly to three β-tubulin isoforms at the luminal face of microtubules and suppresses α-tubulin acetylation. Interaction is weakened by the R1441G LRRK2 GTPase domain mutant.
Conclusion: LRRK2 modulates microtubule stability.
Significance: Deregulation of microtubule-dependent processes likely contribute to neurodegeneration in Parkinson disease.
Mutations in LRRK2, encoding the multifunctional protein leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), are a common cause of Parkinson disease. LRRK2 has been suggested to influence the cytoskeleton as LRRK2 mutants reduce neurite outgrowth and cause an accumulation of hyperphosphorylated Tau. This might cause alterations in the dynamic instability of microtubules suggested to contribute to the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease. Here, we describe a direct interaction between LRRK2 and β-tubulin. This interaction is conferred by the LRRK2 Roc domain and is disrupted by the familial R1441G mutation and artificial Roc domain mutations that mimic autophosphorylation. LRRK2 selectively interacts with three β-tubulin isoforms: TUBB, TUBB4, and TUBB6, one of which (TUBB4) is mutated in the movement disorder dystonia type 4 (DYT4). Binding specificity is determined by lysine 362 and alanine 364 of β-tubulin. Molecular modeling was used to map the interaction surface to the luminal face of microtubule protofibrils in close proximity to the lysine 40 acetylation site in α-tubulin. This location is predicted to be poorly accessible within mature stabilized microtubules, but exposed in dynamic microtubule populations. Consistent with this finding, endogenous LRRK2 displays a preferential localization to dynamic microtubules within growth cones, rather than adjacent axonal microtubule bundles. This interaction is functionally relevant to microtubule dynamics, as mouse embryonic fibroblasts derived from LRRK2 knock-out mice display increased microtubule acetylation. Taken together, our data shed light on the nature of the LRRK2-tubulin interaction, and indicate that alterations in microtubule stability caused by changes in LRRK2 might contribute to the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease.
PMCID: PMC3887213  PMID: 24275654
Lrrk2; Microtubules; Molecular Genetics; Parkinson Disease; Tubulin; GTPase Mutation; RocCOR; Cytoskeletal Dynamics; Growth Cone; Tubulin Acetylation
3.  A Balanced Chromosomal Translocation Disrupting ARHGEF9 Is Associated With Epilepsy, Anxiety, Aggression, and Mental Retardation 
Human mutation  2009;30(1):61-68.
Clustering of inhibitory γ-aminobutyric acidA (GABAA) and glycine receptors at synapses is thought to involve key interactions between the receptors, a “scaffolding” protein known as gephyrin and the RhoGEF collybistin. We report the identification of a balanced chromosomal translocation in a female patient presenting with a disturbed sleep-wake cycle, late-onset epileptic seizures, increased anxiety, aggressive behavior, and mental retardation, but not hyperekplexia. Fine mapping of the breakpoint indicates disruption of the collybistin gene (ARHGEF9) on chromosome Xq11, while the other breakpoint lies in a region of 18q11 that lacks any known or predicted genes. We show that defective collybistin transcripts are synthesized and exons 7–10 are replaced by cryptic exons from chromosomes X and 18. These mRNAs no longer encode the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain of collybistin, which we now show binds phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PI3P/ PtdIns-3-P), a phosphoinositide with an emerging role in membrane trafficking and signal transduction, rather than phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3/PtdIns-3,4,5-P) as previously suggested in the “membrane activation model” of gephyrin clustering. Consistent with this finding, expression of truncated collybistin proteins in cultured neurons interferes with synaptic localization of endogenous gephyrin and GABAA receptors. These results suggest that collybistin has a key role in membrane trafficking of gephyrin and selected GABAA receptor subtypes involved in epilepsy, anxiety, aggression, insomnia, and learning and memory.
PMCID: PMC3621145  PMID: 18615734
GABAA receptors; glycine receptors; collybistin; ARHGEF9; gephyrin; clustering; anxiety; epilepsy; mental retardation; aggression
4.  Novel missense mutations in the glycine receptor β subunit gene (GLRB) in startle disease 
Neurobiology of Disease  2013;52(C):137-149.
Startle disease is a rare, potentially fatal neuromotor disorder characterized by exaggerated startle reflexes and hypertonia in response to sudden unexpected auditory, visual or tactile stimuli. Mutations in the GlyR α1 subunit gene (GLRA1) are the major cause of this disorder, since remarkably few individuals with mutations in the GlyR β subunit gene (GLRB) have been found to date. Systematic DNA sequencing of GLRB in individuals with hyperekplexia revealed new missense mutations in GLRB, resulting in M177R, L285R and W310C substitutions. The recessive mutation M177R results in the insertion of a positively-charged residue into a hydrophobic pocket in the extracellular domain, resulting in an increased EC50 and decreased maximal responses of α1β GlyRs. The de novo mutation L285R results in the insertion of a positively-charged side chain into the pore-lining 9′ position. Mutations at this site are known to destabilize the channel closed state and produce spontaneously active channels. Consistent with this, we identified a leak conductance associated with spontaneous GlyR activity in cells expressing α1βL285R GlyRs. Peak currents were also reduced for α1βL285R GlyRs although glycine sensitivity was normal. W310C was predicted to interfere with hydrophobic side-chain stacking between M1, M2 and M3. We found that W310C had no effect on glycine sensitivity, but reduced maximal currents in α1β GlyRs in both homozygous (α1βW310C) and heterozygous (α1ββW310C) stoichiometries. Since mild startle symptoms were reported in W310C carriers, this may represent an example of incomplete dominance in startle disease, providing a potential genetic explanation for the ‘minor’ form of hyperekplexia.
► We report novel missense mutations in the GlyR β subunit gene causing startle disease. ► Mutation M177R in the extracellular domain decreases GlyR agonist affinity. ► Mutation L285R in TM2 produces spontaneously active channels. ► Mutation W310C in TM3 affects hydrophobic stacking and shows incomplete dominance. ► Mutations in GLRB have unique pathogenic mechanisms and modes of inheritance.
PMCID: PMC3581774  PMID: 23238346
GLRA1; GLRB; Glycine receptor; Hyperekplexia; Startle disease
5.  LRRK2: an éminence grise of Wnt-mediated neurogenesis? 
The importance of leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) to mature neurons is well-established, since mutations in PARK8, the gene encoding LRRK2, are the most common known cause of Parkinson’s disease. Nonetheless, despite the LRRK2 knockout mouse having no overt neurodevelopmental defect, numerous lines of in vitro data point toward a central role for this protein in neurogenesis. Roles for LRRK2 have been described in many key processes, including neurite outgrowth and the regulation of microtubule dynamics. Moreover, LRRK2 has been implicated in cell cycle control, suggesting additional roles in neurogenesis that precede terminal differentiation. However, we contend that the suggested function of LRRK2 as a scaffolding protein at the heart of numerous Wnt signaling cascades provides the most tantalizing link to neurogenesis in the developing brain. Numerous lines of evidence show a critical requirement for multiple Wnt pathways in the development of certain brain regions, not least the dopaminergic neurons of the ventral mid-brain. In conclusion, these observations indicate a function of LRRK2 as a subtle yet critical mediator of the action of Wnt ligands on developing neurons. We suggest that LRRK2 loss- or gain-of-function are likely modifiers of developmental phenotypes seen in animal models of Wnt signaling deregulation, a hypothesis that can be tested by cross-breeding relevant genetically modified experimental strains.
PMCID: PMC3668263  PMID: 23754980
LRRK2; Wnt signaling; neurogenesis; Parkinson’s disease; DVL; LRP6; GSK3
6.  LRRK2 functions as a Wnt signaling scaffold, bridging cytosolic proteins and membrane-localized LRP6 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(22):4966-4979.
Mutations in PARK8, encoding leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), are a frequent cause of Parkinson's disease (PD). Nonetheless, the physiological role of LRRK2 remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that LRRK2 participates in canonical Wnt signaling as a scaffold. LRRK2 interacts with key Wnt signaling proteins of the β-catenin destruction complex and dishevelled proteins in vivo and is recruited to membranes following Wnt stimulation, where it binds to the Wnt co-receptor low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6 (LRP6) in cellular models. LRRK2, therefore, bridges membrane and cytosolic components of Wnt signaling. Changes in LRRK2 expression affects pathway activity, while pathogenic LRRK2 mutants reduce both signal strength and the LRRK2–LRP6 interaction. Thus, decreased LRRK2-mediated Wnt signaling caused by reduced binding to LRP6 may underlie the neurodegeneration observed in PD. Finally, a newly developed LRRK2 kinase inhibitor disrupted Wnt signaling to a similar extent as pathogenic LRRK2 mutations. The use of LRRK2 kinase inhibition to treat PD may therefore need reconsideration.
PMCID: PMC3709196  PMID: 22899650
7.  The residence time of GABAARs at inhibitory synapses is determined by direct binding of the receptor α1 subunit to gephyrin 
The majority of fast synaptic inhibition in the brain is mediated by benzodiazepine-sensitive, α1 subunit-containing GABAARs; however, our knowledge of the mechanisms neurons use to regulate their synaptic accumulation is rudimentary. Using immunoprecipitation we demonstrate that GABAARs and gephyrin are intimately associated at inhibitory synapses in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. In vitro we reveal that the E-domain of gephyrin directly binds to the α1 subunit with an affinity of ~20 μM, mediated by residues 360-375 within the intracellular domain of this receptor subunit. Mutating residues 360-375 decreases both the accumulation of α1-containing GABAARs at gephyrin-positive inhibitory synapses in hippocampal neurons and the amplitude of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs). We also demonstrate that the affinity of gephyrin for the α1 subunit is modulated by Thr375, a putative phosphorylation site. Mutation of Thr375 to a phospho-mimetic, negatively charged amino acid decreases both the affinity of the α1 subunit for gephyrin, receptor accumulation at synapses and the amplitude of mIPSCs. Finally, single particle tracking reveals that gephyrin reduces the diffusion of α1 subunit-containing GABAARs specifically at inhibitory synapses, thereby increasing their confinement at these structures. Our results suggest that the direct binding of gephyrin to residues 360-375 of the α1 subunit and its modulation are likely to be important determinants for the stabilization of GABAARs at synaptic sites, thereby modulating the strength of synaptic inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3202462  PMID: 21994384
Journal of neurochemistry  2011;116(2):304-315.
Mutations in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene are the most prevalent known cause of autosomal dominant Parkinson's disease (PD). The LRRK2 gene encodes a Roco protein featuring a ROC GTPase and a kinase domain linked by the C-terminal of ROC (COR) domain. Here, we explored the effects of the Y1699C pathogenic LRRK2 mutation in the COR domain on GTPase activity and interactions within the catalytic core of LRRK2. We observed a decrease in GTPase activity for LRRK2 Y1699C comparable to the decrease observed for the R1441C pathogenic mutant and the T1348N dysfunctional mutant. To study the underlying mechanism, we explored the dimerization in the catalytic core of LRRK2. ROC-COR dimerization was significantly weakened by the Y1699C or R1441C/G mutation. Using a competition assay we demonstrated that the intra-molecular ROC:COR interaction is favoured over ROC:ROC dimerization. Interestingly, the intra-molecular ROC:COR interaction was strengthened by the Y1699C mutation. This is supported by a 3D homology model of the ROC-COR tandem of LRRK2, showing that Y1699 is positioned at the intra-molecular ROC:COR interface. In conclusion, our data provides mechanistic insight into the mode of action of the Y1699C LRRK2 mutant: the Y1699C substitution, situated at the intra-molecular ROC:COR interface, strengthens the intra-molecular ROC:COR interaction, thereby locally weakening the dimerization of LRRK2 at the ROC-COR tandem domain resulting in decreased GTPase activity.
PMCID: PMC3005098  PMID: 21073465
Parkinson's disease; leucine rich repeat kinase 2; GTPase; dimerization
9.  Mutations in the human GlyT2 gene define a presynaptic component of human startle disease 
Nature genetics  2006;38(7):801-806.
Hyperekplexia is a human neurological disorder characterized by an excessive startle response and is typically caused by missense and nonsense mutations in the gene encoding the inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit (GLRA1)1-3. Genetic heterogeneity has been confirmed in isolated sporadic cases with mutations in other postsynaptic glycinergic proteins including the GlyR β subunit (GLRB)4, gephyrin (GPHN)5 and RhoGEF collybistin (ARHGEF9)6. However, many sporadic patients diagnosed with hyperekplexia do not carry mutations in these genes2-7. Here we reveal that missense, nonsense and frameshift mutations in the presynaptic glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) gene (SLC6A5)8 also cause hyperekplexia. Patients harbouring mutations in SLC6A5 presented with hypertonia, an exaggerated startle response to tactile or acoustic stimuli, and life-threatening neonatal apnoea episodes. GlyT2 mutations result in defective subcellular localisation and/or decreased glycine uptake, with selected mutations affecting predicted glycine and Na+ binding sites. Our results demonstrate that SLC6A5 is a major gene for hyperekplexia and define the first neurological disorder linked to mutations in a Na+/Cl−-dependent transporter for a classical fast neurotransmitter. By analogy, we suggest that in other human disorders where defects in postsynaptic receptors have been identified, similar symptoms could result from defects in the cognate presynaptic neurotransmitter transporter.
PMCID: PMC3204411  PMID: 16751771
10.  TUBA1A mutations cause wide spectrum lissencephaly (smooth brain) and suggest that multiple neuronal migration pathways converge on alpha tubulins 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(14):2817-2827.
We previously showed that mutations in LIS1 and DCX account for ∼85% of patients with the classic form of lissencephaly (LIS). Some rare forms of LIS are associated with a disproportionately small cerebellum, referred to as lissencephaly with cerebellar hypoplasia (LCH). Tubulin alpha1A (TUBA1A), encoding a critical structural subunit of microtubules, has recently been implicated in LIS. Here, we screen the largest cohort of unexplained LIS patients examined to date to determine: (i) the frequency of TUBA1A mutations in patients with lissencephaly, (ii) the spectrum of phenotypes associated with TUBA1A mutations and (iii) the functional consequences of different TUBA1A mutations on microtubule function. We identified novel and recurrent TUBA1A mutations in ∼1% of children with classic LIS and in ∼30% of children with LCH, making this the first major gene associated with the rare LCH phenotype. We also unexpectedly found a TUBA1A mutation in one child with agenesis of the corpus callosum and cerebellar hypoplasia without LIS. Thus, our data demonstrate a wider spectrum of phenotypes than previously reported and allow us to propose new recommendations for clinical testing. We also provide cellular and structural data suggesting that LIS-associated mutations of TUBA1A operate via diverse mechanisms that include disruption of binding sites for microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs).
PMCID: PMC2893812  PMID: 20466733
11.  The Glycinergic System in Human Startle Disease: A Genetic Screening Approach 
Human startle disease, also known as hyperekplexia (OMIM 149400), is a paroxysmal neurological disorder caused by defects in glycinergic neurotransmission. Hyperekplexia is characterised by an exaggerated startle reflex in response to tactile or acoustic stimuli which first presents as neonatal hypertonia, followed in some with episodes of life-threatening infantile apnoea. Genetic screening studies have demonstrated that hyperekplexia is genetically heterogeneous with several missense and nonsense mutations in the postsynaptic glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit gene (GLRA1) as the primary cause. More recently, missense, nonsense and frameshift mutations have also been identified in the glycine transporter GlyT2 gene, SLC6A5, demonstrating a presynaptic component to this disease. Further mutations, albeit rare, have been identified in the genes encoding the GlyR β subunit (GLRB), collybistin (ARHGEF9) and gephyrin (GPHN) – all of which are postsynaptic proteins involved in orchestrating glycinergic neurotransmission. In this review, we describe the clinical ascertainment aspects, phenotypic considerations and the downstream molecular genetic tools utilised to analyse both presynaptic and postsynaptic components of this heterogeneous human neurological disorder. Moreover, we will describe how the ancient startle response is the preserve of glycinergic neurotransmission and how animal models and human hyperekplexia patients have provided synergistic evidence that implicates this inhibitory system in the control of startle reflexes.
PMCID: PMC2854534  PMID: 20407582
glycine; hyperekplexia; receptor; transporter; mutation
12.  Mutations in the LRRK2 Roc-COR tandem domain link Parkinson's disease to Wnt signalling pathways 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(20):3955-3968.
Mutations in PARK8, encoding LRRK2, are the most common known cause of Parkinson's disease. The LRRK2 Roc-COR tandem domain exhibits GTPase activity controlling LRRK2 kinase activity via an intramolecular process. We report the interaction of LRRK2 with the dishevelled family of phosphoproteins (DVL1-3), key regulators of Wnt (Wingless/Int) signalling pathways important for axon guidance, synapse formation and neuronal maintenance. Interestingly, DVLs can interact with and mediate the activation of small GTPases with structural similarity to the LRRK2 Roc domain. The LRRK2 Roc-COR domain and the DVL1 DEP domain were necessary and sufficient for LRRK2–DVL1 interaction. Co-expression of DVL1 increased LRRK2 steady-state protein levels, an effect that was dependent on the DEP domain. Strikingly, LRRK2–DVL1-3 interactions were disrupted by the familial PARK8 mutation Y1699C, whereas pathogenic mutations at residues R1441 and R1728 strengthened LRRK2–DVL1 interactions. Co-expression of DVL1 with LRRK2 in mammalian cells resulted in the redistribution of LRRK2 to typical cytoplasmic DVL1 aggregates in HEK293 and SH-SY5Y cells and co-localization in neurites and growth cones of differentiated dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cells. This is the first report of the modulation of a key LRRK2-accessory protein interaction by PARK8 Roc-COR domain mutations segregating with Parkinson's disease. Since the DVL1 DEP domain is known to be involved in the regulation of small GTPases, we propose that: (i) DVLs may influence LRRK2 GTPase activity, and (ii) Roc-COR domain mutations modulating LRRK2–DVL interactions indirectly influence kinase activity. Our findings also link LRRK2 to Wnt signalling pathways, suggesting novel pathogenic mechanisms and new targets for genetic analysis in Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC2748899  PMID: 19625296
13.  A Critical Role for Glycine Transporters in Hyperexcitability Disorders 
Defects in mammalian glycinergic neurotransmission result in a complex motor disorder characterized by neonatal hypertonia and an exaggerated startle reflex, known as hyperekplexia (OMIM 149400). This affects newborn children and is characterized by noise or touch-induced seizures that result in muscle stiffness and breath-holding episodes. Although rare, this disorder can have serious consequences, including brain damage and/or sudden infant death. The primary cause of hyperekplexia is missense and non-sense mutations in the glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit gene (GLRA1) on chromosome 5q33.1, although we have also discovered rare mutations in the genes encoding the GlyR β subunit (GLRB) and the GlyR clustering proteins gephyrin (GPNH) and collybistin (ARHGEF9). Recent studies of the Na+/Cl−-dependent glycine transporters GlyT1 and GlyT2 using mouse knockout models and human genetics have revealed that mutations in GlyT2 are a second major cause of hyperekplexia, while the phenotype of the GlyT1 knockout mouse resembles a devastating neurological disorder known as glycine encephalopathy (OMIM 605899). These findings highlight the importance of these transporters in regulating the levels of synaptic glycine.
PMCID: PMC2526004  PMID: 18946534
glycine transporters; GlyT1; GlyT2; VIAAT; hyperekplexia; startle disease; glycine encephalopathy

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