Identification and Functional Characterization of RAB32 Ser71Arg: A Novel Genetic Variant Implicated in Familial Parkinson’s Disease


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized as a progressive neurodegenerative disorder with symptoms including tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia. The disease’s etiology is multifactorial, involving both environmental and genetic factors. Within the genetic domain, mutations in the LRRK2 gene represent significant risk factors, given their role in regulating and interacting with RAB GTPases, which are critical for cellular trafficking and signaling. A new international collaborative study published in the Journal Lancet Neurology and led by Professor Matthew Farrer from the University of Florida, the researchers focused on the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson’s disease, specifically through the lens of RAB GTPase variability in familial cases. This extensive study not only highlights a novel genetic variant associated with the disease but also underscores the complex genetic landscape that underpins Parkinson’s pathogenesis. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the genetic variability within the RAB GTPases among familial Parkinson’s disease cases, particularly where no genetic cause had been previously identified. The research hypothesized that mutations in RAB GTPases could be linked to Parkinson’s, providing new insights into the disease mechanisms and potential therapeutic targets. First, the authors used whole-exome sequencing on probands from families with Parkinson’s disease in Canada and Tunisia. These families were selected based on their unknown genetic etiology and familial disease occurrence. The researchers screened 61 RAB GTPases, identifying candidate variants which were further tested in affected family members through linkage analysis and in broader case-control cohorts via genotyping. Validation of findings involved bioinformatic analyses using multiple databases including AMP-PD, GP2, and the 100,000 Genomes Project, among others.

The team identified 15 RAB GTPase variants, with a particular focus on the RAB32 variant c.213C>G (Ser71Arg), which showed significant cosegregation with disease in multiple families. This variant was associated with an early onset of Parkinson’s disease and demonstrated a significant effect size in meta-analyses across several databases. Functional assays indicated that the Ser71Arg mutation enhances LRRK2 kinase activity, suggesting a direct mechanistic link to Parkinson’s pathology. Interestingly, this variant was observed across diverse ethnic groups, indicating its widespread relevance. The discovery of the RAB32 Ser71Arg mutation represents a significant advancement in understanding the genetic basis of Parkinson’s disease. It suggests a novel mechanism through which LRRK2-related pathways may be disrupted and highlights the importance of RAB GTPases in the disease’s pathogenesis. The findings advocate for the inclusion of RAB32 in genetic screening for Parkinson’s, especially in familial cases with unknown genetic causes.

The identification of the RAB32 Ser71Arg variant as a novel genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s disease is a primary significance of this study. This discovery adds to the known spectrum of genetic variations that contribute to the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s, providing insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease. Moreover, the study highlights the role of RAB GTPases, particularly RAB32, in the regulatory pathways involving LRRK2, a protein previously implicated in Parkinson’s. By demonstrating that the RAB32 Ser71Arg variant enhances LRRK2 kinase activity, the research provides a new perspective on how alterations in cellular trafficking and signaling pathways could contribute to neurodegeneration.  Since the variant was predominantly studied in familial cases of Parkinson’s disease, the findings have significant implications for genetic counseling and testing in these populations. Families with a history of Parkinson’s can benefit from targeted genetic screening, potentially leading to earlier diagnosis and personalized management strategies. Furthermore, understanding the interaction between RAB32 and LRRK2 opens up potential therapeutic avenues. If RAB32 influences LRRK2 activity, modulating this interaction might offer a new therapeutic strategy, particularly for patients who carry this or similar mutations. Additionally, the detection of the RAB32 Ser71Arg variant across multiple ethnicities enhances the global relevance of the findings. This diversity underscores the importance of including varied populations in genetic studies, which can lead to more universally applicable Parkinson’s disease treatments and strategies. This study lays the groundwork for further research into other RAB GTPases and their potential roles in Parkinson’s disease. The findings encourage deeper exploration of the genetic architecture of Parkinson’s and highlight the need for comprehensive studies involving larger cohorts and diverse populations to validate and expand upon these results.

The study’s implications extend beyond mere genetic curiosity, suggesting potential new targets for therapeutic intervention and highlighting the importance of genetic counseling in families with prevalent Parkinson’s disease. Future research should focus on further delineating the role of RAB32 and other GTPases in Parkinson’s, exploring their interactions with other proteins, and validating these findings in larger, more diverse populations. Moreover, the study opens up avenues for investigating the therapeutic potential of modulating LRRK2 and RAB32 interactions. Overall, the study significantly enriches our understanding of the genetic landscape of Parkinson’s disease, with implications for diagnostics, treatment, and our understanding of the disease’s pathophysiology. The comprehensive genetic analysis has not only identified a novel genetic variant associated with familial Parkinson’s disease but also underscored the complexity of genetic factors contributing to the disease. The findings enrich our understanding of the genetic architecture of Parkinson’s disease and provide a foundation for future research and therapeutic development.

Identification and Functional Characterization of RAB32 Ser71Arg: A Novel Genetic Variant Implicated in Familial Parkinson's Disease - Medicine Innovates

About the author

Matthew Farrer, PhD

Lauren And Lee Fixel Chair, Professor of Neurology, Director Of Clinical Genomics Program At UF Clinical And Translational Science Institute
University of Florida

Dr. Matt Farrer, is critically acclaimed for his work in the genetics and neuroscience of Parkinson’s disease. His inspiration to apply genetic analysis to complex neurologic disorders came from early work as a care assistant of patients and families with neurologic and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Farrer earned first degree in Biochemistry with a Doctoral degree in Molecular and Statistical Genetics from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, UK. He completed a Fellowship in Medical Genetics at the Kennedy-Galton Centre, UK, and in Neurogenetics at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Farrer became an Assistant Professor of Molecular Neuroscience in 2000, where he opened his first laboratory to predict and prevent Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Farrer became a tenured Professor in 2006, a Mayo Consultant and subsequently a Distinguished Mayo Investigator. In 2010, Dr. Farrer was awarded a Canada Excellence Research Chair to build the Centre for Applied Neurogenetics and Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He came a Professor of Medical Genetics. The Province of British Columbia subsequently awarded him the Don Rix Chair in Precision Medicine and his team had many notable accomplishments, including several new genes and mouse models for Parkinson’s disease. The team also implemented high-throughput sequencing in pediatric seizure disorders and neonatology in clinical service. The former was funded through the Medical Services Plan of British Columbia, and was a first for Canada.

In 2019, Dr. Farrer accepted an endowed chair at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases (thanks to a generous endowment from the Lauren and Lee Fixel Family Foundation). Dr. Matt Farrer also directs the UF Clinical Genomics Program. As such he currently has appointments and affiliations in the UF College of Medicine’s Neurology and Pathology Departments, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute, the Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, the Center for Neurogenetic in addition to the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases.

About the author

Professor Dario Alessi

Science Director (MRC)
MRC PPU, School of Life Sciences
Professor of Signal Transduction
University of Dundee

Much of Dario’s current work is focused on biological research that is relevant to better understanding, treating, and preventing Parkinson’s disease. Dario also serves as the Director of the Dundee Signal Transduction Therapy Unit, a unique collaboration between scientists at the University of Dundee and pharmaceutical companies dedicated to accelerating research and development.

We wish to define the mechanism by which LRRK2 is recruited to the stressed/damaged lysosome and the role that LRRK2 plays once recruited to the lysosome. We have identified a novel pathway involving LRRK2 controlling the binding of the phospho Rab protein to RILPL1 and the lysosomal protein TMEM55B, that wish to study further. We are also keen to uncover other proteins that interact with LRRK2 phosphorylated Rab proteins including Rab12 and characterise these further. We are also keen to undertake unbiased screens to identify new regulators of the LRRK2 signalling pathway and use this knowledge to develop improved biomarkers and therapeutic strategies to better diagnose and treat LRRK2 driven Parkinson’s disease.

It is exciting times in this research field as late phase clinical trials of LRRK2 inhibitors are underway and targeting this pathway is one of the most promising therapeutic strategies to slow progression of Parkinson’s disease.


Gustavsson EK, Follett J, Trinh J, Barodia SK, Real R, Liu Z, Grant-Peters M, Fox JD, Appel-Cresswell S, Stoessl AJ, Rajput A, Rajput AH, Auer R, Tilney R, Sturm M, Haack TB, Lesage S, Tesson C, Brice A, Vilariño-Güell C, Ryten M, Goldberg MS, West AB, Hu MT, Morris HR, Sharma M, Gan-Or Z, Samanci B, Lis P, Periñan MT, Amouri R, Ben Sassi S, Hentati F; Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2); Tonelli F, Alessi DR, Farrer MJ. RAB32 Ser71Arg in autosomal dominant Parkinson’s disease: linkage, association, and functional analyses. Lancet Neurol. 2024 Apr 10:S1474-4422(24)00121-2. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(24)00121-2.