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J Neurosci. 2016 Nov 30;36(48):12243-12258.

Parkin Deficiency Reduces Hippocampal Glutamatergic Neurotransmission by Impairing AMPA Receptor Endocytosis.

Author information

Department of Pathology and Cell Biology.
Columbia Stem Cell Core Facility, Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, and.
Graduate Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York 10032.
Department of Pathology and Cell Biology,


Mutations in the gene encoding Parkin, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, lead to juvenile-onset Parkinson's disease by inducing the selective death of midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Accumulating evidence indicates that Parkin also has an important role in excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmission, although its precise mechanism of action remains unclear. Here, we investigate Parkin's role at glutamatergic synapses of rat hippocampal neurons. We find that Parkin-deficient neurons exhibit significantly reduced AMPA receptor (AMPAR)-mediated currents and cell-surface expression, and that these phenotypes result from decreased postsynaptic expression of the adaptor protein Homer1, which is necessary for coupling AMPAR endocytic zones with the postsynaptic density. Accordingly, Parkin loss of function leads to the reduced density of postsynaptic endocytic zones and to impaired AMPAR internalization. These findings demonstrate a novel and essential role for Parkin in glutamatergic neurotransmission, as a stabilizer of postsynaptic Homer1 and the Homer1-linked endocytic machinery necessary for maintaining normal cell-surface AMPAR levels.


Mutations in Parkin, a ubiquitinating enzyme, lead to the selective loss of midbrain dopaminergic neurons and juvenile-onset Parkinson's disease (PD). Parkin loss of function has also been shown to alter hippocampal glutamatergic neurotransmission, providing a potential explanation for PD-associated cognitive impairment. However, very little is known about Parkin's specific sites or mechanisms of action at glutamatergic synapses. Here, we show that Parkin deficiency leads to decreased AMPA receptor-mediated activity due to disruption of the postsynaptic endocytic zones required for maintaining proper cell-surface AMPA receptor levels. These findings demonstrate a novel role for Parkin in synaptic AMPA receptor internalization and suggest a Parkin-dependent mechanism for hippocampal dysfunction that may explain cognitive deficits associated with some forms of PD.


AMPA receptor; Homer; Parkin; endocytic zone; synapse

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