Parkinson's disease (PD), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, is characterized by a preferential loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNPC). Neurons in the SNPC are known to express tyrosine hydroxylase (TH); therefore, in a commonly used PD model, 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), a selective catecholamine neurotoxin, induces neuronal death in SNPC. We have shown with immunohistochemical techniques that kynurenine aminotransferase-I (KAT-I), the enzyme taking part in the formation of kynurenic acid (KYNA)--the only known endogenous selective NMDA receptor antagonist and a potent neuroprotective agent--is also expressed in the rat SNPC. We found that KAT-I and TH co-exist in the very same neurons of SNPC and that 6-OHDA injected into the lateral ventricle produced loss of the majority of nigral neurons. Densitometric analysis proved that, in consequence of 6-OHDA treatment, not only TH but also KAT-I immunoreactivity diminished considerably in the remaining SNPC neurons. Astrocytes in the substantia nigra were found to express KAT-I under normal conditions; the amount of this enzyme increased after administration of 6-OHDA, whereas microglial cells became KAT-I immunoreactive only after 6-OHDA treatment. Since intrinsic KYNA in SNPC neurons is perceptibly insufficient to protect them from the deleterious effect of 6-OHDA, it is hypothesized that biochemical approaches which increase KYNA content of the central nervous system might prevent the deleterious effect of 6-OHDA and, supposedly, also the neuronal degradation characterizing PD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience