Parkinson's disease relevant pathological features are manifested in male Pink1/Parkin deficient rats

Benjamin G. Lamberty, L. Daniel Estrella, Jane E. Mattingly, Katy Emanuel, Andrew Trease, Steven Totusek, Lexi Sheldon, Joseph W. George, Mohannad A. Almikhlafi, Trey Farmer, Kelly L. Stauch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animal disease models are important for neuroscience experimentation and in the study of neurodegenerative disorders. The major neurodegenerative disorder leading to motor impairments is Parkinson's disease (PD). The identification of hereditary forms of PD uncovered gene mutations and variants, such as loss-of-function mutations in PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (Pink1) and the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin, two proteins involved in mitochondrial quality control, that could be harnessed to create animal models. However, to date, such models have not reproducibly recapitulated major aspects of the disease. Here, we describe the generation and phenotypic characterization of a combined Pink1/Parkin double knockout (dKO) rat, which reproducibly exhibits PD-relevant abnormalities, particularly in male animals. Motor dysfunction in Pink1/Parkin dKO rats was characterized by gait abnormalities and decreased rearing frequency, the latter of which was responsive to levodopa treatment. Pink1/Parkin dKO rats exhibited elevated plasma levels of neurofilament light chain and significant loss of tyrosine hydroxylase expression in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc). Glial cell activation was also observed in the SNpc. Pink1/Parkin dKO rats showed elevated plasma and reduced cerebrospinal levels of alpha-synuclein as well as the presence of alpha-synuclein aggregates in the striatum. Further, the profile of circulating lymphocytes was altered, as elevated CD3+CD4+ T cells and reduced CD3+CD8+ T cells in Pink1/Parkin dKO rats were found. This coincided with mitochondrial dysfunction and infiltration of CD3+ T cells in the striatum. Altogether, the Pink1/Parkin dKO rats exhibited phenotypes similar to what is seen with PD patients, thus highlighting the suitability of this model for mechanistic studies of the role of Pink1 and Parkin in PD pathogenesis and as therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100656
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity - Health
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Alpha-synuclein
  • Motor symptoms
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Parkin/Pink1
  • T cells
  • Tremor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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