Striatal dysfunctions associated with mitochondrial DNA damage in dopaminergic neurons in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease

Alicia M. Pickrell, Milena Pinto, Aline Hida, Carlos T. Moraes

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87 Scopus citations


Parkinson's disease (PD) is one of the most common progressive neurodegenerative disorders, characterized by resting tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, and postural instability. These symptoms are associated with massive loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in the substantia nigra (SN) causing an estimated 70-80% depletion of dopamine (DA) in the striatum, where their projections are located. Although the etiology of PD is unknown, mitochondrial dysfunctions have been associated with the disease pathophysiology. We used a mouse model expressing a mitochondria-targeted restriction enzyme, PstI or mito-PstI, to damage mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in dopaminergic neurons. The expression of mito-PstI induces double-strand breaks in the mtDNA, leading to an oxidative phosphorylation deficiency, mostly due to mtDNA depletion. Taking advantage of a dopamine transporter (DAT) promoter-driven tetracycline transactivator protein (tTA), we expressed mito-PstI exclusively in dopaminergic neurons, creating a novel PD transgenic mouse model (PD-mito-PstI mouse). These mice recapitulate most of the major features of PD: they have a motor phenotype that is reversible with L-DOPA treatment, a progressive neurodegeneration of the SN dopaminergic population, and striatal DA depletion. Our results also showed that behavioral phenotypes in PD-mito-PstI mice were associated with striatal dysfunctions preceding SN loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons and that other neurotransmitter systems [noradrenaline (NE) and serotonin (5-HT)] were increased after the disruption of DA neurons, potentially as a compensatory mechanism. This transgenic mouse model provides a novel model to study the role of mitochondrial defects in the axonal projections of the striatum in the pathophysiology of PD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17649-17658
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 30 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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