Autosomal-dominant, missense mutations in the leucine-rich repeat protein kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene are the most common genetic predisposition to develop Parkinson's disease (PD). LRRK2 kinase activity is increased in several pathogenic mutations (N1437H, R1441C/G/H, Y1699C, G2019S), implicating hyperphosphorylation of a substrate in the pathogenesis of the disease. Identification of the downstream targets of LRRK2 is a crucial endeavor in the field to understand LRRK2 pathway dysfunction in the disease. We have identified the signaling adapter protein p62/SQSTM1 as a novel endogenous interacting partner and a substrate of LRRK2. Using mass spectrometry and phospho-specific antibodies, we found that LRRK2 phosphorylates p62 on Thr138 in vitro and in cells. We found that the pathogenic LRRK2 PD-associated mutations (N1437H, R1441C/G/H, Y1699C, G2019S) increase phosphorylation of p62 similar to previously reported substrate Rab proteins. Notably, we found that the pathogenic I2020T mutation and the risk factor mutation G2385R displayed decreased phosphorylation of p62. p62 phosphorylation by LRRK2 is blocked by treatment with selective LRRK2 inhibitors in cells. We also found that the amino-terminus of LRRK2 is crucial for optimal phosphorylation of Rab7L1 and p62 in cells. LRRK2 phosphorylation of Thr138 is dependent on a p62 functional ubiquitin-binding domain at its carboxy-terminus. Co-expression of p62 with LRRK2 G2019S increases the neurotoxicity of this mutation in a manner dependent on Thr138. p62 is an additional novel substrate of LRRK2 that regulates its toxic biology, reveals novel signaling nodes and can be used as a pharmacodynamic marker for LRRK2 kinase activity.

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