We reported previously that calpain-mediated Cdk5 activation is critical for mitochondrial toxin-induced dopaminergic death. Here, we report a target that mediates this loss. Prx2, an antioxidant enzyme, binds Cdk5/p35. Prx2 is phosphorylated at T89 in neurons treated with MPP+ and/or MPTP in animals in a calpain/Cdk5/p35-dependent manner. This phosphorylation reduces Prx2 peroxidase activity. Consistent with this, p35-/- neurons show reduced oxidative stress upon MPP+ treatment. Expression of Prx2 and Prx2T89A, but not the phosphorylation mimic Prx2T89E, protects cultured and adult neurons following mitochondrial insult. Finally, downregulation of Prx2 increases oxidative stress and sensitivity to MPP+. We propose a mechanistic model by which mitochondrial toxin leads to calpain-mediated Cdk5 activation, reduced Prx2 activity, and decreased capacity to eliminate ROS. Importantly, increased Prx2 phosphorylation also occurs in nigral neurons from postmortem tissue from Parkinson's disease patients when compared to control, suggesting the relevance of this pathway in the human condition.
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