Long-term oral kinetin does not protect against α-synuclein-induced neurodegeneration in rodent models of Parkinson's disease

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Mutations in the mitochondrial kinase PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) cause Parkinson's disease (PD), likely by disrupting PINK1's kinase activity. Although the mechanism(s) underlying how this loss of activity causes degeneration remains unclear, increasing PINK1 activity may therapeutically benefit some forms of PD. However, we must first learn whether restoring PINK1 function prevents degeneration in patients harboring PINK1 mutations, or whether boosting PINK1 function can offer protection in more common causes of PD. To test these hypotheses in preclinical rodent models of PD, we used kinetin triphosphate, a small-molecule that activates both wild-type and mutant forms of PINK1, which affects mitochondrial function and protects neural cells in culture. We chronically fed kinetin, the precursor of kinetin triphosphate, to PINK1-null rats in which PINK1 was reintroduced into their midbrain, and also to rodent models overexpressing α-synuclein. The highest tolerated dose of oral kinetin increased brain levels of kinetin for up to 6 months, without adversely affecting the survival of nigrostriatal dopamine neurons. However, there was no degeneration of midbrain dopamine neurons lacking PINK1, which precluded an assessment of neuroprotection and raised questions about the robustness of the PINK1 KO rat model of PD. In two rodent models of α-synuclein-induced toxicity, boosting PINK1 activity with oral kinetin provided no protective effects. Our results suggest that oral kinetin is unlikely to protect against α-synuclein toxicity, and thus fail to provide evidence that kinetin will protect in sporadic models of PD. Kinetin may protect in cases of PINK1 deficiency, but this possibility requires a more robust PINK1 KO model that can be validated by proof-of-principle genetic correction in adult animals.HighlightsPINK1 is a mitochondrial kinase genetically linked to Parkinson’s disease.Kinetin is the precursor to kinetin triphosphate, a known activator of PINK1.Kinetin was delivered orally to three rodent models of Parkinson’s disease.Long-term kinetin did not protect against α-synuclein-induced neurodegeneration.PINK1 knockout rats did not show signs of neurodegeneration as previously reported.

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