PARK2 is the most common gene mutated in monogenic recessive familial cases of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Pathogenic mutations cause a loss of function of the encoded protein Parkin. ParkinKO mice, however, poorly represent human PD symptoms as they only exhibit mild motor phenotypes, minor dopamine metabolism abnormalities, and no signs of dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Parkin has been shown to participate in mitochondrial turnover, by targeting damaged mitochondria with low membrane potential to mitophagy. We studied the role of Parkin on mitochondrial quality control in vivo by knocking out Parkin in the PD-mito-PstI mouse (males), where the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) undergoes double-strand breaks only in dopaminergic neurons. The lack of Parkin promoted earlier onset of dopaminergic neurodegeneration and motor defects in the PD-mito-PstI mice, but it did not worsen the pathology. The lack of Parkin affected mitochondrial morphology in dopaminergic axons and was associated with an increase in mtDNA levels (mutant and wild type). Unexpectedly, it did not cause a parallel increase in mitochondrial mass or mitophagy. Our results suggest that Parkin affects mtDNA levels in a mitophagy-independent manner.
- Double-strand breaks
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