PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) and parkin are mutated in familial forms of Parkinson’s disease and are important in promoting the mitophagy of damaged mitochondria. In this study, we showed that synphilin-1 interacted with PINK1 and was recruited to the mitochondria. Once in the mitochondria, it promoted PINK1-dependent mitophagy, as revealed by Atg5 knockdown experiments and the recruitment of LC3 and Lamp1 to the mitochondria. PINK1–synphilin-1 mitophagy did not depend on PINK1-mediated phosphorylation of synphilin-1 and occurred in the absence of parkin. Synphilin-1 itself caused depolarization of the mitochondria and increased the amount of uncleaved PINK1 at the organelle. Furthermore, synphilin-1 recruited seven in absentia homolog (SIAH)-1 to the mitochondria where it promoted mitochondrial protein ubiquitination and subsequent mitophagy. Mitophagy via this pathway was impaired by synphilin-1 knockdown or by the use of a synphilin-1 mutant that is unable to recruit SIAH-1 to the mitochondria. Likewise, knockdown of SIAH-1 or the use of a catalytically inactive SIAH-1 mutant abrogated mitophagy. PINK1 disease mutants failed to recruit synphilin-1 and did not activate mitophagy, indicating that PINK1–synphilin-1–SIAH-1 represents a new parkin-independent mitophagy pathway. Drugs that activate this pathway will provide a novel strategy to promote the clearance of damaged mitochondria in Parkinson’s disease.

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