LRRK2 Phosphorylation: Behind the Scenes

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Mutations in the gene encoding leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) are known today as the most common genetic cause of Parkinson’s disease (PD). LRRK2 is a large protein that is hypothesized to regulate other proteins as a scaffold in downstream signaling pathways. This is supported by the multiple domain composition of LRRK2 with several protein-protein interaction domains combined with kinase and GTPase activity. LRRK2 is highly phosphorylated at sites that are strictly controlled by upstream regulators, including its own kinase domain. In cultured cells, most pathogenic mutants display increased autophosphorylation at S1292, but decreased phosphorylation at sites controlled by other kinases. We only begin to understand how LRRK2 phosphorylation is regulated and how this impacts its physiological and pathological function. Intriguingly, LRRK2 kinase inhibition, currently one of the most prevailing disease-modifying therapeutic strategies for PD, induces LRRK2 dephosphorylation at sites that are also dephosphorylated in pathogenic variants. In addition, LRRK2 kinase inhibition can induce LRRK2 protein degradation, which might be related to the observed inhibitor-induced adverse effects on the lung in rodents and non-human primates, as it resembles the lung pathology in LRRK2 knock-out animals. In this review, we will provide an overview of how LRRK2 phosphorylation is regulated and how this complex regulation relates to several molecular and cellular features of LRRK2.

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