Homozygous or heterozygous mutations in the PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) gene have been linked to early-onset Parkinson's disease (PD). Several neurophysiological studies have demonstrated alterations in striatal synaptic plasticity along with impaired dopamine release in PINK1-deficient mice. Using electrophysiological methods, here we show that PINK1 loss of function causes a progressive increase of spontaneous glutamate-mediated synaptic events in the hippocampus, without influencing long-term potentiation. Moreover, fluorescence analysis reveals increased neurotrasmitter release although our biochemical results failed to detect which presynaptic proteins might be engaged. This study provides a novel role for PINK1 beyond the physiology of nigrostriatal dopaminergic circuit. Specifically, PINK1 might contribute to preserve synaptic function and glutamatergic homeostasis in the hippocampus, a brain region underlying cognition. The subtle changes in excitatory transmission here observed might be a pathogenic precursor to excitotoxic neurodegeneration and cognitive decline often observed in PD. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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