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Mol Cell Biol. 2011 May;31(10):2151-61. doi: 10.1128/MCB.05207-11. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

The parkin mutant phenotype in the fly is largely rescued by metal-responsive transcription factor (MTF-1).

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


The gene for Parkin, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, is mutated in some familial forms of Parkinson's disease, a severe neurodegenerative disorder. A homozygous mutant of the Drosophila ortholog of human parkin is viable but results in severe motoric impairment including an inability to fly, female and male sterility, and a decreased life span. We show here that a double mutant of the genes for Parkin and the metal-responsive transcription factor 1 (MTF-1) is not viable. MTF-1, which is conserved from insects to mammals, is a key regulator of heavy metal homeostasis and detoxification and plays additional roles in other stress conditions, notably oxidative stress. In contrast to the synthetic lethality of the double mutant, elevated expression of MTF-1 dramatically ameliorates the parkin mutant phenotype, as evidenced by a prolonged life span, motoric improvement including short flight episodes, and female fertility. At the cellular level, muscle and mitochondrial structures are substantially improved. A beneficial effect is also seen with a transgene encoding human MTF-1. We propose that Parkin and MTF-1 provide complementary functions in metal homeostasis, oxidative stress and other cellular stress responses. Our findings also raise the possibility that MTF-1 gene polymorphisms in humans could affect the severity of Parkinson's disease.

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