Parkin and PINK1 protein mutants are implicated in familial Parkinson disease and promote fragmentation and turnover of mitochondria after mitochondrial depolarization. In this paper, the authors show that the PINK1/Parkin pathway selectively influences the integrity of mitochondria in dopaminergic neurons. In contrast, there was a less pronounced effect on mitochondria in cholinergic neurons. The authors suggest that either mitochondria are damaged at higher rates in dopaminergic neurons, or that mitochondrial repair or turnover may be more limited in this cell type. The selective vulnerability of mitochondria in dopaminergic neurons may help explain the relatively selective degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease.  The authors used adult Drosophila brain cells for their analysis since it is known that (like humans) PINK1 and parkin mutant flies exhibit selective degeneration of dopamine neurons.

Burman JL, Yu S, Poole AC, Decal RB, Pallanck L: Analysis of neural subtypes reveals selective mitochondrial dysfunction in dopaminergic neurons from parkin mutants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109(26): 10438-10443 (2012).

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