Mitochondrial defects and neurodegeneration in mice overexpressing wild-type or G399S mutant HtrA2

Nicolas Casadei, Poonam Sood, Thomas Ulrich, Petra Fallier-Becker, Nicole Kieper, Stefan Helling, Caroline May, Enrico Glaab, Jing Chen, Silke Nuber, Katrin Marcus, Doron Rapaport, Thomas Ott, Olaf Riess, Rejko Krüger, Julia C. Fitzgerald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The protease HtrA2 has a protective role inside mitochondria, but promotes apoptosis under stress. We previously identified the G399S HtrA2 mutation in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients and reported mitochondrial dysfunction in vitro. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common feature of PD and related to neurodegeneration. Complete loss of HtrA2 has been shown to cause neurodegeneration in mice. However, the full impact of HtrA2 overexpression or the G399S mutation is still to be determined in vivo. Here, we report the first HtrA2 G399S transgenic mouse model. Our data suggest that the mutation has a dominant-negative effect. We also describe a toxic effect of wild-type (WT) HtrA2 overexpression. Only low overexpression of the G399S mutation allowed viable animals and we suggest that the mutant protein is likely unstable. This is accompanied by reduced mitochondrial respiratory capacity and sensitivity to apoptotic cell death. Mice overexpressing WT HtrA2 were viable, yet these animals have inhibited mitochondrial respiration and significant induction of apoptosis in the brain leading to motor dysfunction, highlighting the opposing roles of HtrA2. Our data further underscore the importance of HtrA2 as a key mediator of mitochondrial function and its fine regulatory role in cell fate. The location and abundance of HtrA2 is tightly controlled and, therefore, human mutations leading to gain- or loss of function could provide significant risk for PD-related neurodegeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-471
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


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