Loss-of-function mutations in PINK1 or PARKIN are the most common causes of autosomal recessive Parkinson's disease. Both gene products, the Ser/Thr kinase PINK1 and the E3 Ubiquitin ligase Parkin, functionally cooperate in a mitochondrial quality control pathway. Upon stress, PINK1 activates Parkin and enables its translocation to and ubiquitination of damaged mitochondria to facilitate their clearance from the cell. Though PINK1-dependent phosphorylation of Ser65 is an important initial step, the molecular mechanisms underlying the activation of Parkin's enzymatic functions remain unclear. Using molecular modeling, we generated a complete structural model of human Parkin at all atom resolution. At steady state, the Ub ligase is maintained inactive in a closed, auto-inhibited conformation that results from intra-molecular interactions. Evidently, Parkin has to undergo major structural rearrangements in order to unleash its catalytic activity. As a spark, we have modeled PINK1-dependent Ser65 phosphorylation in silico and provide the first molecular dynamics simulation of Parkin conformations along a sequential unfolding pathway that could release its intertwined domains and enable its catalytic activity. We combined free (unbiased) molecular dynamics simulation, Monte Carlo algorithms, and minimal-biasing methods with cell-based high content imaging and biochemical assays. Phosphorylation of Ser65 results in widening of a newly defined cleft and dissociation of the regulatory N-terminal UBL domain. This motion propagates through further opening conformations that allow binding of an Ub-loaded E2 co-enzyme. Subsequent spatial reorientation of the catalytic centers of both enzymes might facilitate the transfer of the Ub moiety to charge Parkin. Our structure-function study provides the basis to elucidate regulatory mechanisms and activity of the neuroprotective Parkin. This may open up new avenues for the development of small molecule Parkin activators through targeted drug design.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics