Parkin, an E3 ubiquitin ligase that degrades proteins with aberrant conformations, is associated with autosomal recessive juvenile Parkinsonism (AR-JP). The molecular basis of selective neuronal death in AR-JP is unknown. Here we show in an organismal system that panneuronal expression of Parkin substrate Pael-R causes age-dependent selective degeneration of Drosophila dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Coexpression of Parkin degrades Pael-R and suppresses its toxicity, whereas interfering with endogenous Drosophila Parkin function promotes Pael-R accumulation and augments its toxicity. Furthermore, overexpression of Parkin can mitigate alpha-Synuclein-induced neuritic pathology and suppress its toxicity. Our study implicates Parkin as a central player in the molecular pathway of Parkinson's disease (PD) and suggests that manipulating Parkin expression may provide a novel avenue of PD therapy.
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