Genetic deletion of Polo-like kinase 2 reduces alpha-synuclein serine-129 phosphorylation in presynaptic terminals but not Lewy bodies

Leah J. Weston, Teresa L. Stackhouse, Kateri J. Spinelli, Sydney W. Boutros, Elizabeth P. Rose, Valerie R. Osterberg, Kelvin C. Luk, Jacob Raber, Tamily A. Weissman, Vivek K. Unni

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15 Scopus citations


Phosphorylation of alpha-synuclein at serine-129 is an important marker of pathologically relevant, aggregated forms of the protein in several important human diseases, including Parkinsons disease, Dementia with Lewy bodies, and Multiple system atrophy. Although several kinases have been shown to be capable of phosphorylating alpha-synuclein in various model systems, the identity of the kinase that phosphorylates alpha-synuclein in the Lewy body remains unknown. One member of the Polo-like kinase family, PLK2, is a strong candidate for being the Lewy body kinase. To examine this possibility, we have used a combination of approaches, including biochemical, immunohistochemical, and in vivo multiphoton imaging techniques to study the consequences of PLK2 genetic deletion on alpha-synuclein phosphorylation in both the presynaptic terminal and preformed fibril-induced Lewy body pathology in mouse cortex. We find that PLK2 deletion reduces presynaptic terminal alpha-synuclein serine 129 phosphorylation, but has no effect on Lewy body phos phorylation levels. Serine-129 mutation to the phosphomimetic alanine or the unphosphorylatable analog aspartate does not change the rate of cell death of Lewy inclusion-bearing neurons in our in vivo multiphoton imaging paradigm, but PLK2 dele tion does slow the rate of neuronal death. Our data indicate that inhibition of PLK2 represents a promising avenue for developing new therapeutics, but that the mechanism of neu roprotection by PLK2 inhibition is not likely due to reducing alpha-synuclein serine-129 phosphorylation and that the true Lewy body kinase still awaits discovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100273
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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