Ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase-L1 (UCH-L1) has been proposed as one of the Parkinson's disease (PD) related genes, but the possible molecular connection between UCH-L1 and PD is not well understood. In this study, we discovered an N-terminal 11 amino acid truncated variant UCH-L1 that we called NT-UCH-L1, in mouse brain tissue as well as in NCI-H157 lung cancer and SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell lines. In vivo experiments and hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX) with tandem mass spectrometry (MS) studies showed that NT-UCH-L1 is readily aggregated and degraded, and has more flexible structure than UCH-L1. Post-translational modifications including monoubiquitination and disulfide crosslinking regulate the stability and cellular localization of NT-UCH-L1, as confirmed by mutational and proteomic studies. Stable expression of NT-UCH-L1 decreases cellular ROS levels and protects cells from H2O 2, rotenone and CCCP-induced cell death. NT-UCH-L1-expressing transgenic mice are less susceptible to degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons seen in the MPTP mouse model of PD, in comparison to control animals. These results suggest that NT-UCH-L1 may have the potential to prevent neural damage in diseases like PD.
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