PINK1-dependent mitophagy is driven by the UPS and can occur independently of LC3 conversion

Aleksandar Rakovic, Jonathan Ziegler, Christoph U. Mårtensson, Jannik Prasuhn, Katharina Shurkewitsch, Peter König, Henry L. Paulson, Christine Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work


The Parkinson’s disease (PD)-related ubiquitin ligase Parkin and mitochondrial kinase PINK1 function together in the clearance of damaged mitochondria. Upon mitochondrial depolarization, Parkin translocates to mitochondria in a PINK1-dependent manner to ubiquitinate outer mitochondrial membrane proteins. According to the current model, the ubiquitin- and LC3-binding adaptor protein SQSTM1 is recruited to mitochondria, followed by their selective degradation through autophagy (mitophagy). However, the role of the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS), although essential for this process, still remains largely elusive. Here, we investigated the role of the UPS and autophagy by applying the potassium ionophore Valinomycin in PINK1-deficient human fibroblasts and isogenic neuroblastoma cell lines generated by CRISPR/Cas9. Although identical to the commonly used CCCP/FCCP in terms of dissipating the mitochondrial membrane potential and triggering complete removal of mitochondria, Valinomycin did not induce conversion of LC3 to its autophagy-related form. Moreover, FCCP-induced conversion of LC3 occurred even in mitophagy-incompetent, PINK1-deficient cell lines. While both stressors required a functional UPS, the removal of depolarized mitochondria persisted in cells depleted of LC3A and LC3B. Our study highlights the importance of the UPS in PINK1-/Parkin-mediated mitochondrial quality control. In contrast, activation of autophagy, monitored through conversion of LC3, is likely induced by depolarizing-agent-induced toxicity in a PINK1-/Parkin-independent manner.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1428-1441
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 01.08.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Medical Genetics


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