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Keywords:

  • dopaminergic neuron;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • pink1;
  • zebrafish

Abstract

Mutations in the human PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) gene are linked to recessive familial Parkinson’s disease. Animal models of altered PINK1 function vary greatly in their phenotypic characteristics. Drosophila pink1 mutants exhibit mild dopaminergic neuron degeneration and locomotion defects. Such defects are not observed in mice with targeted null mutations in pink1, although these mice exhibit impaired dopamine release and synaptic plasticity. Here, we report that in zebrafish, morpholino-mediated knockdown of pink1 function did not cause large alterations in the number of dopaminergic neurons in the ventral diencephalon. However, the patterning of these neurons and their projections are perturbed. This is accompanied by locomotor dysfunction, notably impaired response to tactile stimuli and reduced swimming behaviour. All these defects can be rescued by expression of an exogenous pink1 that is not a target of the morpholinos used. These results indicate that normal PINK1 function during development is necessary for the proper positioning of populations of dopaminergic neurons and for the establishment of neuronal circuits in which they are implicated.