Noble, S., Ismail, A., Godoy, R., Xi, Y., and Ekker, M. (2012) Zebrafish Parla- and Parlb-deficiency affects dopaminergic neuron patterning and embryonic survival. Journal of neurochemistry. 122(1):196-207.
Many genes associated with familial Parkinson’s disease contribute to mitochondrial morphology and function. Some of these genes, for example, Pink1 and Parkin, are part of a common pathway. The presenilin-associated rhomboid-like (PARL) gene was recently linked to familial Parkinson’s disease. The PARL gene product is found in the inner mitochondrial membrane and cleaves the optic atrophy 1 protein, involved in mitochondrial morphology and apoptosis. In Drosophila, the PARL-related rhomboid-7 gene acts upstream of pink1 and parkin. However, such a genetic relationship is still unknown in vertebrates. Here, we show that the zebrafish genome comprises two parl paralogs: parla and parlb. Morpholino-mediated loss of parla and/or parlb function resulted in mild neurodegeneration, as evidenced by a lower density of dopaminergic neurons. Patterning of dopaminergic neurons was also perturbed in the ventral diencephalon. Morphants exhibited extensive cell death throughout the entire body as well as increased larval mortality. The morphant phenotype could be rescued by injection of human PARL mRNA, but not catalytically inactive PARL, suggesting functional conservation between the human and zebrafish proteins. More importantly, the zebrafish pink1 mRNA as well as the human PINK1 mRNA, but not kinase-dead nor PD-linked mutant PINK1 mRNA, also rescued the morphant phenotype, providing evidence that Parl genes may function upstream of Pink1, as part of a conserved pathway in vertebrates.