PloS one

Increased mitochondrial calcium sensitivity and abnormal expression of innate immunity genes precede dopaminergic defects in Pink1-deficient mice.

PMID 21249202


PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) is linked to recessive Parkinsonism (EOPD). Pink1 deletion results in impaired dopamine (DA) release and decreased mitochondrial respiration in the striatum of mice. To reveal additional mechanisms of Pink1-related dopaminergic dysfunction, we studied Ca²+ vulnerability of purified brain mitochondria, DA levels and metabolism and whether signaling pathways implicated in Parkinson's disease (PD) display altered activity in the nigrostriatal system of Pink1⁻/⁻ mice. Purified brain mitochondria of Pink1⁻/⁻ mice showed impaired Ca²+ storage capacity, resulting in increased Ca²+ induced mitochondrial permeability transition (mPT) that was rescued by cyclosporine A. A subpopulation of neurons in the substantia nigra of Pink1⁻/⁻ mice accumulated phospho-c-Jun, showing that Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activity is increased. Pink1⁻/⁻ mice 6 months and older displayed reduced DA levels associated with increased DA turnover. Moreover, Pink1⁻/⁻ mice had increased levels of IL-1β, IL-12 and IL-10 in the striatum after peripheral challenge with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and Pink1⁻/⁻ embryonic fibroblasts showed decreased basal and inflammatory cytokine-induced nuclear factor kappa-β (NF-κB) activity. Quantitative transcriptional profiling in the striatum revealed that Pink1⁻/⁻ mice differentially express genes that (i) are upregulated in animals with experimentally induced dopaminergic lesions, (ii) regulate innate immune responses and/or apoptosis and (iii) promote axonal regeneration and sprouting. Increased mitochondrial Ca²+ sensitivity and JNK activity are early defects in Pink1⁻/⁻ mice that precede reduced DA levels and abnormal DA homeostasis and may contribute to neuronal dysfunction in familial PD. Differential gene expression in the nigrostriatal system of Pink1⁻/⁻ mice supports early dopaminergic dysfunction and shows that Pink1 deletion causes aberrant expression of genes that regulate innate immune responses. While some differentially expressed genes may mitigate neurodegeneration, increased LPS-induced brain cytokine expression and impaired cytokine-induced NF-κB activation may predispose neurons of Pink1⁻/⁻ mice to inflammation and injury-induced cell death.