The LRRK2 protein consists of multiple functional domains, including protein-binding domains at its N and C-terminus. Mutations in the Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 gene (LRRK2) have been linked to familial and sporadic Parkinson’s disease (PD). We have recently described a novel variant falling within the N-terminal armadillo repeats, E193K. Herein, our aim is to investigate the functional impact of LRRK2 N-terminal domain and the E193K variant on vesicle trafficking. By combining Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and a synaptopHluorin assay, we found that expression of a construct lacking the N-terminal domain increases the frequency and amplitude of spontaneous synaptic events. Complementary biochemical approaches showed that the E193K variant alters the binding properties of LRRK2, decreases LRRK2 binding to synaptic vesicles, and promotes vesicle fusion. Our results confirm the physiological and pathological relevance of the nature of the LRRK2-associated macro-molecular complex solidifying the idea that different pathological mutations critically alter the scaffolding function of LRRK2 resulting in a perturbation of the vesicular trafficking as a common denominator.
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