Mutations in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene are the leading cause of genetically inherited Parkinson's disease (PD). Although this multidomain protein has been shown to have both GTPase and kinase activities through the Roc and MAPKKK domains, respectively, the protein-protein interactions and pathways involved in LRRK2-mediated signaling remain elusive. Utilizing a combination of protein pull-down assays, mass spectrometry, Western blotting, and immunofluorescence microscopy, this study identifies and describes the interaction between LRRK2 and microtubules. The Roc or GTPase-like domain of LRRK2 is sufficient for interaction with alpha/beta-tubulin heterodimers. This interaction occurs in a guanine nucleotide-independent manner, suggesting that tubulin might not be an effector of the LRRK2 GTPase domain. The R1441C pathogenic mutation, located within the Roc domain, retains interaction with alpha/beta-tubulin heterodimers, suggesting that disruption of this interaction likely is not the mechanism whereby the R1441C mutation leads to disease. At a subcellular level, endogenous LRRK2 protein was found to colocalize with alpha/beta-tubulin in primary hippocampal neurons. These findings are significant in that they link LRRK2 with microtubules, a structural component of the cell that is critically involved in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases, including PD.
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