Mutations in Parkin are responsible for a large percentage of autosomal recessive juvenile parkinsonism cases. Parkin displays ubiquitin-ligase activity and protects against cell death promoted by several insults. Therefore, regulation of Parkin activities is important for understanding the dopaminergic cell death observed in Parkinson disease. We now report that cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) phosphorylates Parkin both in vitro and in vivo. We found that highly specific Cdk5 inhibitors and a dominant negative Cdk5 construct inhibited Parkin phosphorylation, suggesting that a significant portion of Parkin is phosphorylated by Cdk5. Parkin interacts with Cdk5 as observed by co-immunoprecipitation experiments of transfected cells and rat brains. Phosphorylation by Cdk5 decreased the auto-ubiquitylation of Parkin both in vitro and in vivo. We identified Ser-131 located at the linker region of Parkin as the major Cdk5 phosphorylation site. The Cdk5 phosphorylation-deficient S131A Parkin mutant displayed a higher auto-ubiquitylation level and increased ubiquitylation activity toward its substrates synphilin-1 and p38. Additionally, the S131A Parkin mutant more significantly accumulated into inclusions in human dopaminergic cells when compared with the wild-type Parkin. Furthermore, S131A Parkin mutant increased the formation of synphilin-1/alpha-synuclein inclusions, suggesting that the levels of Parkin phosphorylation and ubiquitylation may modulate the formation of inclusion bodies relevant to the disease. The data indicate that Cdk5 is a new regulator of the Parkin ubiquitin-ligase activity and modulates its ability to accumulate into and modify inclusions. Phosphorylation by Cdk5 may contribute to the accumulation of toxic Parkin substrates and decrease the ability of dopaminergic cells to cope with toxic insults in Parkinson disease.
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