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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Structural determinants of PINK1 topology and dual subcellular distribution

William Lin and Un Jung Kang*

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurology, University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA

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BMC Cell Biology 2010, 11:90  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-11-90

Published: 22 November 2010



PINK1 is a mitochondria-targeted kinase that constitutively localizes to both the mitochondria and the cytosol. The mechanism of how PINK1 achieves cytosolic localization following mitochondrial processing remains unknown. Understanding PINK1 subcellular localization will give us insights into PINK1 functions and how mutations in PINK1 lead to Parkinson's disease. We asked how the mitochondrial localization signal, the transmembrane domain, and the kinase domain participate in PINK1 localization.


We confirmed that PINK1 mitochondrial targeting signal is responsible for mitochondrial localization. Once inside the mitochondria, we found that both PINK1 transmembrane and kinase domain are important for membrane tethering and cytosolic-facing topology. We also showed that PINK1 dual subcellular distribution requires both Hsp90 interaction with the kinase domain and the proteolysis at a cleavage site downstream of the transmembrane domain because removal of this cleavage site completely abolished cytosolic PINK1. In addition, the disruption of the Hsp90-PINK1 interaction increased mitochondrial PINK1 level.


Together, we believe that once PINK1 enters the mitochondria, PINK1 adopts a tethered topology because the transmembrane domain and the kinase domain prevent PINK1 forward movement into the mitochondria. Subsequent proteolysis downstream of the transmembrane domain then releases PINK1 for retrograde movement while PINK1 kinase domain interacts with Hsp90 chaperone. The significance of this dual localization could mean that PINK1 has compartmental-specific functions.