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

Ravi S. Akundi, Zhenyu Huang, Joshua Eason, Jignesh D. Pandya, Lianteng Zhi, Wayne A. Cass, Patrick G. Sullivan, Hansruedi Büeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Background: 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. Methods and Findings: 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. Conclusions: 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-kB activation may predispose neurons of Pink1-/- mice to inflammation and injury-induced cell death.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16038
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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