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1.  Modulation of microglial pro-inflammatory and neurotoxic activity for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease 
The AAPS Journal  2006;8(3):E606-E621.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a debilitating movement disorder resulting from a progressive degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway and depletion of neurotransmitter dopamine in the striatum. Molecular cloning studies have identified nearly a dozen genes or loci that are associated with small clusters of mostly early onset and genetic forms of PD. The etiology of the vast majority of PD cases remains unknown, and the precise molecular and biochemical processes governing the selective and progressive degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway are poorly understood. Current drug therapies for PD are symptomatic and appear to bear little effect on the progressive neurodegenerative process. Studies of postmortem PD brains and various cellular and animal models of PD in the last 2 decades strongly suggest that the generation of proinflammatory and neurotoxic factors by the resident brain immune cells, microglia, plays a prominent role in mediating the progressive neurodegenerative process. This review discusses literature supporting the possibility of modulating the activity of microglia as a neuroprotective strategy for the treatment of PD.
PMCID: PMC2668934  PMID: 17025278
Dopamine neuron; Parkinson’s disease; movement disorder; microglia; neuroprotection; free radical
2.  Regulator of G-protein Signaling-10 negatively regulates NF-κB in microglia and neuroprotects dopaminergic neurons in hemiparkinsonian rats 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2011;31(33):11879-11888.
Microglia are the brain-resident macrophages responsible for immune surveillance that become activated in response to injury, infection, environmental toxins, and other stimuli that threaten neuronal survival. Previous work from our group demonstrated that mice deficient in Regulator of G-protein Signaling 10 (RGS10), a microglia-enriched GTPase activating protein (GAP) for G-protein alpha subunits, displayed increased microglial burden in the CNS at birth and developed a parkinsonian phenotype after exposure to chronic systemic inflammation, implicating a neuroprotective role for RGS10 in the nigrostriatal pathway. While it is known that RGS10 is expressed in both microglia and certain subsets of neurons, it is not known whether RGS10 functions similarly in both cells types. In this study we sought to delineate the specific role of RGS10 in microglia and identify the molecular pathway(s) required for RGS10 to exert its actions in microglia. Here, we identify RGS10 as a negative regulator of the NF-κB pathway in microglia and demonstrate that the pro-inflammatory and cytotoxic phenotype of Rgs10-null microglia can be reversed by lentiviral-mediated restoration of RGS10 expression. In vivo gene transfer of RGS10 into the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) of rats reduced microgliosis and protected against 6-OHDA neurotoxin-induced death of dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Together, our findings suggest that modulation of RGS10 activity in microglia may afford therapeutic benefit in the treatment of chronic neuroinflammatory conditions as well as neuroprotection against inflammation-related degeneration in Parkinson’s disease (PD), the second most common neurodegenerative disorder affecting individuals over age 65.
PMCID: PMC3326398  PMID: 21849548
RGS10; microglia; neuroinflammation; dopaminergic neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease
3.  Regulator of G-protein Signaling 10 (RGS10) promotes dopaminergic neuron survival via regulation of the microglial inflammatory response 
Epidemiological studies suggest that chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) lowers the incidence of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in humans and implicate neuroinflammatory processes in the death of dopamine (DA) neurons. Here, we demonstrate that Regulator of G protein Signaling 10 (RGS10), a microglia-enriched GTPase accelerating protein (GAP) for Gα subunits, is an important regulator of microglia activation. Flow-cytometric and immunohistochemical analyses indicated that RGS10-deficient mice displayed increased microglial burden in the CNS and exposure to chronic systemic inflammation induced nigral DA neuron loss measured by unbiased stereology. Primary microglia isolated from brains of RGS10-deficient mice displayed dysregulated inflammation-related gene expression profiles under basal and stimulated conditions in vitro compared to that of primary microglia isolated from wildtype littermates. Similarly, knockdown of RGS10 in the BV2 microglia cell line resulted in dysregulated inflammation-related gene expression, overproduction of Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) and enhanced neurotoxic effects of BV2 microglia on the MN9D dopaminergic cell line that could be blocked by addition of the TNF decoy receptor etanercept. Importantly, ablation of RGS10 in MN9D dopaminergic cells further enhanced their vulnerability to microglial-derived death-inducing inflammatory mediators, suggesting a role for RGS10 in modulating the sensitivity of dopaminergic neurons against inflammation-mediated cell death. Taken together, our findings indicate that RGS10 limits microglial-derived TNF secretion and regulates the functional outcome of inflammatory stimuli in the ventral midbrain. RGS10 emerges as a novel drug target for prevention of nigrostriatal pathway degeneration, the neuropathological hallmark of PD.
PMCID: PMC2739568  PMID: 18716210
RGS10; microglia; neuroinflammation; Tumor Necrosis Factor; dopaminergic neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease
4.  Brain renin-angiotensin system and dopaminergic cell vulnerability 
Although the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) was classically considered as a circulating system that regulates blood pressure, many tissues are now known to have a local RAS. Angiotensin, via type 1 receptors, is a major activator of the NADPH-oxidase complex, which mediates several key events in oxidative stress (OS) and inflammatory processes involved in the pathogenesis of major aging-related diseases. Several studies have demonstrated the presence of RAS components in the basal ganglia, and particularly in the nigrostriatal system. In the nigrostriatal system, RAS hyperactivation, via NADPH-oxidase complex activation, exacerbates OS and the microglial inflammatory response and contributes to progression of dopaminergic degeneration, which is inhibited by angiotensin receptor blockers and angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Several factors may induce an increase in RAS activity in the dopaminergic system. A decrease in dopaminergic activity induces compensatory upregulation of local RAS function in both dopaminergic neurons and glia. In addition to its role as an essential neurotransmitter, dopamine may also modulate microglial inflammatory responses and neuronal OS via RAS. Important counterregulatory interactions between angiotensin and dopamine have also been observed in several peripheral tissues. Neurotoxins and proinflammatory factors may also act on astrocytes to induce an increase in RAS activity, either independently of or before the loss of dopamine. Consistent with a major role of RAS in dopaminergic vulnerability, increased RAS activity has been observed in the nigra of animal models of aging, menopause and chronic cerebral hypoperfusion, which also showed higher dopaminergic vulnerability. Manipulation of the brain RAS may constitute an effective neuroprotective strategy against dopaminergic vulnerability and progression of Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC4086395  PMID: 25071471
aging; angiotensin; dopamine; NADPH-oxidase; neurodegeneration; neuroinflammation; oxidative stress; parkinson
5.  Naringin: A Protector of the Nigrostriatal Dopaminergic Projection 
Experimental Neurobiology  2014;23(2):124-129.
Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons and a biochemical reduction of striatal dopamine levels. Despite the lack of fully understanding of the etiology of Parkinson's disease, accumulating evidences suggest that Parkinson's disease may be caused by the insufficient support of neurotrophic factors, and by microglial activation, resident immune cells in the brain. Naringin, a major flavonone glycoside in grapefruits and citrus fruits, is considered as a protective agent against neurodegenerative diseases because it can induce not only anti-oxidant effects but also neuroprotective effects by the activation of anti-apoptotic pathways and the induction of neurotrophic factors such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor and vascular endothelial growth factor. We have recently reported that naringin has neuroprotective effects in a neurotoxin model of Parkinson's disease. Our observations show that intraperitoneal injection of naringin induces increases in glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor expression and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 activity in dopaminergic neurons of rat brains with anti-inflammatory effects. Moreover, the production of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor by naringin treatment contributes to the protection of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic projection in a neurotoxin model of Parkinson's disease. Although the effects of naringin on the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system in human brains are largely unknown, these results suggest that naringin may be a beneficial natural product for the prevention of dopaminergic degeneration in the adult brain.
PMCID: PMC4065825  PMID: 24963276
Parkinson's disease; naringin; mTORC1; GDNF; neuroprotection
6.  HMGB1 acts on microglia Mac1 to mediate chronic neuroinflammation that drives progressive neurodegeneration 
What drives the gradual degeneration of dopamine neurons in Parkinson's disease (PD), the second most common neurodegenerative disease, remains elusive. Here, we demonstrated, for the first time, that persistent neuroinflammation was indispensible for such neurodegenerative process. 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and rotenone, three toxins often used to create PD models, produced acute but nonprogressive neurotoxicity in neuron-enriched cultures. In the presence of microglia (brain immune cells), these toxins induced progressive dopaminergic neurodegeneration. More importantly, such neurodegeneration was prevented by removing activated microglia. Collectively, chronic neuroinflammation may be a driving force of progressive dopaminergic neurodegeneration. On the other hand, ongoing neurodegeneration sustained microglial activation. Microglial activation persisted only in the presence of neuronal damage in LPS-treated neuron-glia cultures, but not in LPS-treated mixed-glia cultures. Thus, activated microglia and damaged neurons formed a vicious cycle mediating chronic, progressive neurodegeneration. Mechanistic studies indicated that HMGB1 (high-mobility group box 1), released from inflamed microglia and/or degenerating neurons, bound to microglial Mac1 (macrophage antigen complex 1) and activated NF-κB pathway and NADPH oxidase to stimulate production of multiple inflammatory and neurotoxic factors. The treatment of microglia with HMGB1 led to membrane translocation of p47 (a cytosolic subunit of NADPH oxidase) and consequent superoxide release, which required the presence of Mac1. Neutralization of HMGB1 and genetic ablation of Mac1 and gp91phox (the catalytic submit of NADPH oxidase) blocked the progressive neurodegeneration. Our findings indicated that HMGB1-Mac1-NADPH oxidase signaling axis bridged chronic neuroinflammation and progressive dopaminergic neurodegeneration, thus identifying a mechanistic basis for chronic PD progression.
PMCID: PMC3046932  PMID: 21248133
Parkinson's disease; microglia; Mac1; HMGB1; NADPH oxidase; neurodegeneration
7.  Neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s disease: its role in neuronal death and implications for therapeutic intervention 
Neurobiology of disease  2009;37(3):510-518.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s disease. The potential causes of PD remain uncertain but recent studies suggest neuroinflammation and microglia activation play important roles in PD pathogenesis. Major unanswered questions include whether protein aggregates cause the selective loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra that underlies the clinical symptoms and whether neuroinflammation is a consequence or a cause of nigral cell loss. Within the microenvironment of the brain, glial cells play a critical role in homeostatic mechanisms that promote neuronal survival. Microglia have a specialized immune surveillance role and mediate innate immune responses to invading pathogens by secreting a myriad of factors that include, cytokines, chemokines, prostaglandins, reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, and growth factors. Some of these factors have neuroprotective and trophic activities and aid in brain repair processes; while others enhance oxidative stress and trigger apoptotic cascades in neurons. Therefore, pro- and anti-inflammatory responses must be in balance to prevent the potential detrimental effects of prolonged or unregulated inflammation-induced oxidative stress on vulnerable neuronal populations. In this review, we discuss potential triggers of neuroinflammation and review the strongest direct evidence that chronic neuroinflammation may have a more important role to play in PD versus other neurodegenerative diseases. Alternatively, we propose that genetic deficiency is not the only way to reduce protective factors in the brain which may function to keep microglial responses in check or regulate the sensitivity of DA neurons. If chronic inflammation can be shown to decrease the levels of neuroprotective factors in the midbrain, in essence genetic haploinsufficiency of protective factors such as Parkin or RGS10 may result from purely environmental triggers (aging, chronic systemic disease, etc.), increasing the vulnerability to inflammation-induced nigral DA neuron death and predisposing an individual to development of PD. Lastly, we review the latest epidemiological and experimental evidence supporting the potential use of anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory drugs as neuroprotective agents to delay the progressive nigrostriatal degeneration that leads to motor dysfunction in PD.
PMCID: PMC2823829  PMID: 19913097
Microglia; inflammation; neuroinflammation; neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease
8.  The synthetic triterpenoid CDDO-methyl ester modulates microglial activities, inhibits TNF production, and provides dopaminergic neuroprotection 
Recent animal and human studies implicate chronic activation of microglia in the progressive loss of CNS neurons. The inflammatory mechanisms that have neurotoxic effects and contribute to neurodegeneration need to be elucidated and specifically targeted without interfering with the neuroprotective effects of glial activities. Synthetic triterpenoid analogs of oleanolic acid, such as methyl-2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oate (CDDO-Me, RTA 402) have potent anti-proliferative and differentiating effects on tumor cells, and anti-inflammatory activities on activated macrophages. We hypothesized that CDDO-Me may be able to suppress neurotoxic microglial activities while enhancing those that promote neuronal survival. Therefore, the aims of our study were to identify specific microglial activities modulated by CDDO-Me in vitro, and to determine the extent to which this modulation affords neuroprotection against inflammatory stimuli.
We tested the synthetic triterpenoid methyl-2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oate (CDDO-Me, RTA 402) in various in vitro assays using the murine BV2 microglia cell line, mouse primary microglia, or mouse primary peritoneal macrophages to investigate its effects on proliferation, inflammatory gene expression, cytokine secretion, and phagocytosis. The antioxidant and neuroprotective effects of CDDO-Me were also investigated in primary neuron/glia cultures from rat basal forebrain or ventral midbrain.
We found that at low nanomolar concentrations, treatment of rat primary mesencephalon neuron/glia cultures with CDDO-Me resulted in attenuated LPS-, TNF- or fibrillar amyloid beta 1–42 (Aβ1–42) peptide-induced increases in reactive microglia and inflammatory gene expression without an overall effect on cell viability. In functional assays CDDO-Me blocked death in the dopaminergic neuron-like cell line MN9D induced by conditioned media (CM) of LPS-stimulated BV2 microglia, but did not block cell death induced by addition of TNF to MN9D cells, suggesting that dopaminergic neuroprotection by CDDO-Me involved inhibition of microglial-derived cytokine production and not direct inhibition of TNF-dependent pro-apoptotic pathways. Multiplexed immunoassays of CM from LPS-stimulated microglia confirmed that CDDO-Me-treated BV2 cells produced decreased levels of specific subsets of cytokines, in particular TNF. Lastly, CDDO-Me enhanced phagocytic activity of BV2 cells in a stimulus-specific manner but inhibited generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in mixed neuron/glia basal forebrain cultures and dopaminergic cells.
The neuroimmune modulatory properties of CDDO-Me indicate that this potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound may have therapeutic potential to modify the course of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by chronic neuroinflammation and amyloid deposition. The extent to which synthetic triterpenoids afford therapeutic benefit in animal models of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease deserves further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2396606  PMID: 18474101
9.  Absence of Ret Signaling in Mice Causes Progressive and Late Degeneration of the Nigrostriatal System 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(3):e39.
Support of ageing neurons by endogenous neurotrophic factors such as glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) may determine whether the neurons resist or succumb to neurodegeneration. GDNF has been tested in clinical trials for the treatment of Parkinson disease (PD), a common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the loss of midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons. BDNF modulates nigrostriatal functions and rescues DA neurons in PD animal models. The physiological roles of GDNF and BDNF signaling in the adult nigrostriatal DA system are unknown. We generated mice with regionally selective ablations of the genes encoding the receptors for GDNF (Ret) and BDNF (TrkB). We find that Ret, but not TrkB, ablation causes progressive and adult-onset loss of DA neurons specifically in the substantia nigra pars compacta, degeneration of DA nerve terminals in striatum, and pronounced glial activation. These findings establish Ret as a critical regulator of long-term maintenance of the nigrostriatal DA system and suggest conditional Ret mutants as useful tools for gaining insights into the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of PD.
Author Summary
What does a neuron need to survive? Our body produces its own survival factors for neurons, so-called neurotrophic factors, which have additional roles in neuron differentiation, growth, and function. Declining production of a neurotrophic factor or impaired signal transduction in ageing neurons may contribute to pathological neurodegeneration in humans. Glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) have been suggested as survival factors for midbrain dopaminergic neurons, a group of neurons primarily affected in Parkinson disease.
To investigate the physiological requirements for GDNF and BDNF to establish and maintain an important output pathway of these neurons—the nigrostriatal pathway—in the intact brain, we generated mutant mice with regionally selective ablations of the receptors for these survival factors, Ret (receptor of GDNF and related family members) or TrkB (BDNF receptor). Surprisingly, these mice survive to adulthood and show normal development and maturation of the nigrostriatal system. However, in ageing mice, ablation of Ret leads to a progressive and cell-type–specific loss of substantia nigra pars compacta neurons and their projections into the striatum. Our findings establish Ret and subsequent downstream effectors as critical regulators of long-term maintenance of the nigrostriatal system.
Ret, a receptor for glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, selectively regulates long-term maintenance of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system.
PMCID: PMC1808500  PMID: 17298183
10.  Novel Cell Death Signaling Pathways in Neurotoxicity Models of Dopaminergic Degeneration: Relevance to Oxidative Stress and Neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s Disease 
Neurotoxicology  2009;31(5):555-561.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative movement disorder characterized by extensive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the nigrostriatal system. Neurochemical and neuropathological analyses clearly indicate that oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation and impairment of the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) are major mechanisms of dopaminergic degeneration. Evidence from experimental models and postmortem PD brain tissues demonstrates that apoptotic cell death is the common final pathway responsible for selective and irreversible loss of nigral dopaminergic neurons. Epidemiological studies imply both environmental neurotoxicants and genetic predisposition are risk factors for PD, though the cellular mechanisms underlying selective dopaminergic degeneration remain unclear. Recent progress in signal transduction research is beginning to unravel the complex mechanisms governing dopaminergic degeneration. During 12th International Neurotoxicology meeting, discussion at one symposium focused on several key signaling pathways of dopaminergic degeneration. This review summarizes two novel signaling pathways of nigral dopaminergic degeneration that have been elucidated using neurotoxicity models of PD. Dr. Anumantha Kanthasamy described a cell death pathway involving the novel protein kinase C delta isoform (PKCδ) in oxidative stress-induced apoptotic cell death in experimental models of PD. Dr. Ajay Rana presented his recent work on the role of mixed lineage kinase-3 (MLK3) in neuroinflammatory processes in neurotoxic cell death. Collectively, PKCδ and MLK3 signaling pathways provide new understanding of neurodegenerative processes in PD, and further exploration of these pathways may translate into effective neuroprotective drugs for the treatment of PD.
PMCID: PMC2888638  PMID: 20005250
Protein kinase Cδ; MLK3; Parkinson’s disease; neurotoxicity; Dieldrin; Manganese; environmental factors; Translational research
11.  Multiple roles for nicotine in Parkinson’s disease 
Biochemical pharmacology  2009;78(7):677.
There exists a remarkable diversity of neurotransmitter compounds in the striatum, a pivotal brain region in the pathology of Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder characterized by rigidity, tremor and bradykinesia. The striatal dopaminergic system, which is particularly vulnerable to neurodegeneration in this disorder, appears to be the major contributor to these motor problems. However, numerous other neurotransmitter systems in the striatum most likely also play a significant role, including the nicotinic cholinergic system. Indeed, there is an extensive anatomical overlap between dopaminergic and cholinergic neurons, and acetylcholine is well known to modulate striatal dopamine release both in vitro and in vivo. Nicotine, a drug that stimulates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), influences several functions relevant to Parkinson’s disease. Extensive studies in parkinsonian animals show that nicotine protects against nigrostriatal damage, findings that may explain the well-established decline in Parkinson’s disease incidence with tobacco use. In addition, recent work shows that nicotine reduces L-dopa-induced abnormal involuntary movements, a debilitating complication of L-dopa therapy for Parkinson’s disease. These combined observations suggest that nAChR stimulation may represent a useful treatment strategy for Parkinson’s disease for neuroprotection and symptomatic treatment. Importantly, only selective nAChR subtypes are present in the striatum including the α4β2*, α6β2* and α7 nAChR populations. Treatment with nAChR ligands directed to these subtypes may thus yield optimal therapeutic benefit for Parkinson’s disease, with a minimum of adverse side effects.
PMCID: PMC2815339  PMID: 19433069
L-Dopa-induced dyskinesias; Neuroprotection; Nicotine; Nicotinic; Nigrostriatal; Parkinson’s disease
12.  The role of the MYD88-dependent pathway in MPTP-induced brain dopaminergic degeneration 
Mounting evidence supports a significant role of inflammation in Parkinson's disease (PD) pathophysiology, with several inflammatory pathways being suggested as playing a role in the dopaminergic degeneration seen in humans and animal models of the disease. These include tumor necrosis factor, prostaglandins and oxidative-related stress components. However, the role of innate immunity has not been established in PD.
Based on the fact that the myeloid differentiation primary response gene (88) (MyD88) is the most common adaptor protein implicated in toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling, critical in the innate immune response, we undertook a study to investigate the potential contribution of this specific pathway to MPTP-induced brain dopaminergic degeneration using MyD88 knock out mice (MyD88-/-), following our observations that the MyD88-dependent pathway was critical for MPTP dopaminergic toxicity in the enteric nervous system. Post-mortem analyses assessing nigrostriatal dopaminergic degeneration and inflammation were performed using HPLC, western blots, autoradiography and immunofluorescence.
Our results demonstrate that MyD88-/- mice are as vulnerable to MPTP-induced dopamine and DOPAC striatal depletion as wild type mice. Furthermore, MyD88-/- mice show similar striatal dopamine transporter and tyrosine hydroxylase loss, as well as dopaminergic cell loss in the substantia nigra pars compacta in response to MPTP. To evaluate the extent of the inflammatory response created by the MPTP regimen utilized, we further performed bioluminescence imaging using TLR2-luc/gfp transgenic mice and microglial density analysis, which revealed a modest brain microglial response following MPTP. This was accompanied by a significant astrocytic reaction in the striatum, which was of similar magnitude both in wild type and MyD88-/- mice.
Our results suggest that subacute MPTP-induced dopaminergic degeneration observed in the central nervous system is MyD88-independent, in contrast to our recent observations that this pathway, in the same cohort of animals, is critical in the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the enteric nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3203853  PMID: 21989292
MPTP; MyD88; Inflammation; Dopamine; Parkinson's disease
13.  Striatal Neuroinflammation Promotes Parkinsonism in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5482.
Sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder with unknown cause, but it has been suggested that neuroinflammation may play a role in pathogenesis of the disease. Neuroinflammatory component in process of PD neurodegeneration was proposed by postmortem, epidemiological and animal model studies. However, it remains unclear how neuroinflammatory factors contribute to dopaminergic neuronal death in PD.
In this study, we analyzed the relationship among inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)-derived NO, mitochondrial dysfunction and dopaminergic neurodegeneration to examine the possibility that microglial neuroinflammation may induce dopaminergic neuronal loss in the substantia nigra. Unilateral injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) into the striatum of rat was followed by immunocytochemical, histological, neurochemical and biochemical analyses. In addition, behavioral assessments including cylinder test and amphetamine-induced rotational behavior test were employed to validate ipsilateral damage to the dopamine nigrostriatal pathway. LPS injection caused progressive degeneration of the dopamine nigrostriatal system, which was accompanied by motor impairments including asymmetric usage of forelimbs and amphetamine-induced turning behavior in animals. Interestingly, some of the remaining nigral dopaminergic neurons had intracytoplasmic accumulation of α-synuclein and ubiquitin. Furthermore, defect in the mitochondrial respiratory chain, and extensive S-nitrosylation/nitration of mitochondrial complex I were detected prior to the dopaminergic neuronal loss. The mitochondrial injury was prevented by treatment with L-N6-(l-iminoethyl)-lysine, an iNOS inhibitor, suggesting that iNOS-derived NO is associated with the mitochondrial impairment.
These results implicate neuroinflammation-induced S-nitrosylation/nitration of mitochondrial complex I in mitochondrial malfunction and subsequent degeneration of the nigral dopamine neurons.
PMCID: PMC2674956  PMID: 19424495
14.  The angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor captopril protects nigrostriatal dopamine neurons in animal models of parkinsonism 
Experimental neurology  2013;250:376-383.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a prominent loss of nigrostriatal dopamine (DA) neurons with an accompanying neuroinflammation. The peptide angiotensin II (AngII) plays a role in oxidative-stress induced disorders and is thought to mediate its detrimental actions via activation of AngII AT1 receptors. The brain renin-angiotensin system is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders including PD. Blockade of the angiotensin converting enzyme or AT1 receptors provides protection in acute animal models of parkinsonism. We demonstrate here that treatment of mice with the angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor captopril protects the striatum from acutely administered 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyrine (MPTP), and that chronic captopril protects the nigral DA cell bodies from degeneration in a progressive rat model of parkinsonism created by the chronic intracerebral infusion of 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+). The accompanying activation of microglia in the substantia nigra of MPP+-treated rats was reduced by the chronic captopril treatment. These findings indicate that captopril is neuroprotective for nigrostriatal DA neurons in both acute and chronic rodent PD models. Targeting the brain AngII pathway may be a feasible approach to slowing neurodegeneration in PD.
PMCID: PMC3889207  PMID: 24184050
Parkinson’s disease; captopril; angiotensin converting enzyme; dopamine neurodegeneration; mice; rats; MPTP; MPP+; microglia; osmotic minipump
15.  Parkinson's disease and exposure to infectious agents and pesticides and the occurrence of brain injuries: role of neuroinflammation. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2003;111(8):1065-1073.
Idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) is a devastating movement disorder characterized by selective degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway. Neurodegeneration usually starts in the fifth decade of life and progresses over 5-10 years before reaching the fully symptomatic disease state. Despite decades of intense research, the etiology of sporadic PD and the mechanism underlying the selective neuronal loss remain unknown. However, the late onset and slow-progressing nature of the disease has prompted the consideration of environmental exposure to agrochemicals, including pesticides, as a risk factor. Moreover, increasing evidence suggests that early-life occurrence of inflammation in the brain, as a consequence of either brain injury or exposure to infectious agents, may play a role in the pathogenesis of PD. Most important, there may be a self-propelling cycle of inflammatory process involving brain immune cells (microglia and astrocytes) that drives the slow yet progressive neurodegenerative process. Deciphering the molecular and cellular mechanisms governing those intricate interactions would significantly advance our understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of PD and aid the development of therapeutic strategies for the treatment of the disease.
PMCID: PMC1241555  PMID: 12826478
16.  Regionally-specific microglial activation in young mice over-expressing human wildtype alpha-synuclein 
Experimental neurology  2012;237(2):318-334.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by widespread alpha-synuclein pathology and neuronal loss, primarily of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons. Inflammation has been implicated in PD, and alpha-synuclein can initiate microglial activation; however, the kinetics and distribution of inflammatory responses to alpha-synuclein overexpression in vivo are not well understood. We have examined the regional and temporal pattern of microglial activation and pro-inflammatory cytokine production in mice over-expressing wild-type human alpha-synuclein driven by the Thy1-promoter (Thy1-aSyn mice). Increased number of activated microglia, and increased levels of TNF-α mRNA and protein were first detected in the striatum (1 month of age) and later in the substantia nigra (5–6 months), but not cerebral cortex or cerebellum; in contrast, IL-1β and TGFβ remained unchanged in striatum and substantia nigra at all ages examined. Microglial activation persisted up to 14 months of age in these regions and only minimal increases were observed in other regions at this later age. Increased concentrations of serum TNF-α were observed at 5–6 months, but not 1 month of age. The expression of toll-like receptors (TLR) 1, TLR 4 and TLR 8, which are possible mediators of microglial activation, was increased at 5–6 months in the substantia nigra but not in the cerebral cortex, and TLR 2 was increased in the substantia nigra at 14 months of age. With the exception of a slight increase in the striatum of 14 months old Thy1-aSyn mice, MHCII staining was not detected in the regions and ages examined. Similarly, peripheral CD4 and CD8-postive T cells were increased in the blood but only at 22 months of age, suggesting later involvement of the adaptive immune response. These data indicate that, despite the presence of high levels of alpha-synuclein in other brain regions, alpha-synuclein overexpression caused a selective early inflammatory response in regions containing the axon terminals and cell bodies of the nigrostriatal pathway. Our results suggest that specific factors, possibly involving a regionally and temporally selective increase in TLRs, mediate alpha-synuclein-induced inflammatory responses in the SN, and may play a role in the selective vulnerability of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in PD.
PMCID: PMC3443323  PMID: 22750327
Parkinson’s disease; alpha-synuclein; overexpression; transgenic; neurodegeneration; microglia; cytokines; inflammation
17.  WIN55,212-2, a Cannabinoid Receptor Agonist, Protects Against Nigrostriatal Cell Loss in the MPTP Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease 
The European journal of neuroscience  2009;29(11):2177-2186.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by the progressive loss of nigrostriatal dopamine (DA) neurons leading to motor disturbances and cognitive impairment. Current pharmacotherapies relieve PD symptoms temporarily but fail to prevent or slow down the disease progression. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms by which the non-selective cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN55,212-2 (WIN) protects mouse nigrostriatal neurons from 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced neurotoxicity and neuroinflammation. Stereological analyses showed that chronic treatment with WIN (4 mg/kg, i.p.), initiated 24 hr after MPTP administration, protected against MPTP-induced loss of tyrosine hydroxylase positive (TH+) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) independently of CB1 cannabinoid receptor activation. The neuroprotective effect of WIN was accompanied by increased DA and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) levels in the SNc and dorsal striatum of MPTP-treated mice. Three days post-MPTP, we found significant microglial activation and up-regulation of CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the ventral midbrain. Treatment with WIN or the CB2 receptor agonist JWH015 (4 mg/kg, i.p.) reduced MPTP-induced microglial activation, whereas genetic ablation of CB2 receptors exacerbated MPTP systemic toxicity. Furthermore, chronic WIN reversed MPTP-associated motor deficits, as revealed by the analysis of forepaw step width and percentage of faults using the inverted grid test. In conclusion, our data indicate that agonism at CB2 cannabinoid receptors protects against MPTP-induced nigrostriatal degeneration by inhibiting microglial activation/infiltration and suggest that CB2 receptors represent a new therapeutic target to slow the degenerative process occurring in PD.
PMCID: PMC2755595  PMID: 19490092
cannabinoid receptors; neurotoxicity; striatum; substantia nigra; neuroinflammation
18.  Anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects of an orally active apocynin derivative in pre-clinical models of Parkinson’s disease 
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive motor debilitation, which affects several million people worldwide. Recent evidence suggests that glial cell activation and its inflammatory response may contribute to the progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in PD. Currently, there are no neuroprotective agents available that can effectively slow the disease progression. Herein, we evaluated the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant efficacy of diapocynin, an oxidative metabolite of the naturally occurring agent apocynin, in a pre-clinical 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) mouse model of PD.
Both pre-treatment and post-treatment of diapocynin were tested in the MPTP mouse model of PD. Diapocynin was administered via oral gavage to MPTP-treated mice. Following the treatment, behavioral, neurochemical and immunohistological studies were performed. Neuroinflammatory markers, such as ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1 (Iba-1), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), gp91phox and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), were measured in the nigrostriatal system. Nigral tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons as well as oxidative markers 3-nitrotyrosine (3-NT), 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) and striatal dopamine levels were quantified for assessment of the neuroprotective efficacy of diapocynin.
Oral administration of diapocynin significantly attenuated MPTP-induced microglial and astroglial cell activation in the substantia nigra (SN). MPTP-induced expression of gp91phox and iNOS activation in the glial cells of SN was also completely blocked by diapocynin. Notably, diapocynin markedly inhibited MPTP-induced oxidative markers including 3-NT and 4-HNE levels in the SN. Treatment with diapocynin also significantly improved locomotor activity, restored dopamine and its metabolites, and protected dopaminergic neurons and their nerve terminals in this pre-clinical model of PD. Importantly, diapocynin administered 3 days after initiation of the disease restored the neurochemical deficits. Diapocynin also halted the disease progression in a chronic mouse model of PD.
Collectively, these results demonstrate that diapocynin exhibits profound neuroprotective effects in a pre-clinical animal model of PD by attenuating oxidative damage and neuroinflammatory responses. These findings may have important translational implications for treating PD patients.
PMCID: PMC3488558  PMID: 23092448
Parkinson’s disease; Oxidative stress; Neuroinflammation; Neuroprotection; Dopamine; Microglia; Diapocynin; Astrocytes
19.  Temporal mRNA profiles of inflammatory mediators in the murine MPTP model of Parkinson’s disease 
Neuroscience  2007;145(2):654-668.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc). With the exception of a few rare familial forms of the disease, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying PD are unknown. Inflammation is a common finding in the PD brain, but due to the limitation of post mortem analysis its relationship to disease progression cannot be established. However, studies using the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) model of PD have also identified inflammatory responses in the nigrostriatal pathway that precede neuronal degeneration in the SNpc. To assess the pathological relevance of these inflammatory responses and to identify candidate genes that might contribute to neuronal vulnerability, we used quantitative real-time PCR to measure mRNA levels of 11 cytokine and chemokine encoding genes in the striatum of MPTP-sensitive (C57BL/6J) and MPTP-insensitive (SWR) mice following administration of MPTP. The mRNA levels of all 11 genes changed following MPTP treatment, indicating the presence of inflammatory responses in both strains. Furthermore, of the 11 genes examined only three, Il-6, Mip-1α/Ccl3 and Mip-1β/Ccl4, were differentially regulated between C57BL/6J and SWR mice. In both mouse strains, the level of Mcp-1/Ccl2 mRNA was the first to increase following MPTP administration, and might represent a key initiating component of the inflammatory response. Using Mcp-1/Ccl2 knockout mice backcrossed onto a C57BL/6J background we found that MPTP-stimulated Mip-1α/Ccl3 and Mip-1β/Ccl4 mRNA expression was significantly lower in the knockout mice; suggesting that Mcp-1/Ccl2 contributes to MPTP-enhanced expression of Mip-1α/Ccl3 and Mip-1β/Ccl4. However, stereological analysis of SNpc neuronal loss in Mcp-1/Ccl2 knockout and wild-type mice showed no differences. These findings suggests that it is the ability of dopaminergic SNpc neurons to survive an inflammatory insult, rather than genetically determined differences in the inflammatory response itself, that underlie the molecular basis of MPTP resistance.
PMCID: PMC1894756  PMID: 17258864
cytokine/chemokine; tumor necrosis factor α; stromal derived factor 1 macrophage inflammatory protein 1; Tnf-like weak inducer of apoptosis; fibroblast growth factor-inducible 14; interleukin 6; fractalkine; fractalkine receptor; monocyte chemoattractant protein 1
20.  Intranigral lentiviral delivery of dominant negative TNF attenuates neurodegeneration and behavioral deficits in hemiparkinsonian rats 
Neuroinflammatory processes have been implicated in the progressive loss of ventral midbrain dopaminergic neurons that give rise to Parkinson’s disease, a late-onset movement disorder that affects 2% of the population over age 70. Previously, we demonstrated that inhibition of the pro-inflammatory cytokine Tumor Necrosis Factor through nigral infusion of dominant-negative Tumor Necrosis Factor protein (XENP345) in two rat models of Parkinson’s disease attenuates dopaminergic neuron loss. The objective of this study was to develop a constitutive lentiviral vector encoding dominate-negative Tumor Necrosis Factor and to determine if a gene therapy approach to deliver dominant-negative TNF directly into the rodent substantia nigra could prevent or attenuate neurotoxin-induced dopaminergic neuron loss and associated behavioral deficits. Here we demonstrate that a single injection of lentivirus expressing dominant-negative TNF into rat substantia nigra administered concomitant with a striatal 6- hydroxydopamine lesion resulted in sufficiently high expression of inhibitor in vivo to attenuate both dopaminergic neuron loss and behavioral deficits resulting from striatal dopamine depletion. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility and efficacy of dominant negative Tumor Necrosis Factor gene transfer as a novel neuroprotective strategy to prevent or delay nigrostriatal pathway degeneration with potential future therapeutic applications in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2670754  PMID: 18628756
21.  Neuroinflammation and α-Synuclein Dysfunction Potentiate Each Other, Driving Chronic Progression of Neurodegeneration in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;119(6):807-814.
Mechanisms whereby gene–environment interactions mediate chronic, progressive neurodegenerative processes in Parkinson’s disease (PD)—the second most common neurodegenerative disease—remain elusive.
We created a two-hit [neuroinflammation and mutant α-synuclein (α-syn) overexpression] animal model to investigate mechanisms through which mutant α-syn and inflammation work in concert to mediate chronic PD neurodegeneration.
We used an intraperitoneal injection of the inflammogen lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 3 × 106 EU/kg) to initiate systemic and brain inflammation in wild-type (WT) mice and transgenic (Tg) mice overexpressing human A53T mutant α-syn. We then evaluated nigral dopaminergic neurodegeneration, α-syn pathology, and neuroinflammation.
After LPS injection, both WT and Tg mice initially displayed indistinguishable acute neuroinflammation; however, only Tg mice developed persistent neuroinflammation, chronic progressive degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopamine pathway, accumulation of aggregated, nitrated α-syn, and formation of Lewy body-like inclusions in nigral neurons. Further mechanistic studies indicated that 4-week infusion of two inhibitors of inducible nitric oxide synthase and NADPH oxidase, major free radical–generating enzymes in activated microglia, blocked nigral α-syn pathology and neurodegeneration in LPS-injected Tg mice.
Microglia-derived oxidative stress bridged neuroinflammation and α-syn pathogenic alteration in mediating chronic PD progression. Our two-hit animal model involving both a genetic lesion and an environmental trigger reproduced key features of PD and demonstrated synergistic effects of genetic predisposition and environmental exposures in the development of PD. The chronic progressive nature of dopaminergic neurodegeneration, which is absent in most existing PD models, makes this new model invaluable for the study of mechanisms of PD progression.
PMCID: PMC3114815  PMID: 21245015
α-synuclein; gene-environment interaction; inflammation; iNOS; microglia; NADPH oxidase; neurodegeneration; oxidative stress; Parkinson’s disease
22.  CX3CL1 reduces neurotoxicity and microglial activation in a rat model of Parkinson's disease 
Parkinson's disease is characterized by a progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. The cause of the neurodegeneration is unknown. Neuroinflammation has been clearly shown in Parkinson's disease and may be involved in the progressive nature of the disease. Microglia are capable of producing neuronal damage through the production of bioactive molecules such as cytokines, as well as reactive oxygen species (ROS), and nitric oxide (NO). The inflammatory response in the brain is tightly regulated at multiple levels. One form of immune regulation occurs via neurons. Fractalkine (CX3CL1), produced by neurons, suppresses the activation of microglia. CX3CL1 is constitutively expressed. It is not known if addition of exogenous CX3CL1 beyond otherwise physiologically normal levels could decrease microglia activation and thereby minimize the secondary neurodegeration following a neurotoxic insult.
The intrastriatal 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) rat model of Parkinson disease, was used to test the hypothesis that exogenous CX3CL1 could be neuroprotective. Treatment with recombinant CX3CL1 was delivered to the striatum by an osmotic minipump for 28 days beginning 7 days after the initial insult. Unbiased stereological methods were used to quantify the lesion size in the striatum, the amount of neuronal loss in the substantia nigra, and the amount of microglia activation.
As hypothesized, CX3CL1 was able to suppress this microglia activation. The reduced microglia activation was found to be neuroprotective as the CX3CL1 treated rats had a smaller lesion volume in the striatum and importantly significantly fewer neurons were lost in the CX3CL1 treated rats.
These findings demonstrated that CX3CL1 plays a neuroprotective role in 6-OHDA-induced dopaminergic lesion and it might be an effective therapeutic target for many neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson disease and Alzheimer disease, where inflammation plays an important role.
PMCID: PMC3039584  PMID: 21266082
23.  Combining nitric oxide release with anti-inflammatory activity preserves nigrostriatal dopaminergic innervation and prevents motor impairment in a 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine model of Parkinson's disease 
Current evidence suggests a role of neuroinflammation in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD) and in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) model of basal ganglia injury. Reportedly, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) mitigate DAergic neurotoxicity in rodent models of PD. Consistent with these findings, epidemiological analysis indicated that certain NSAIDs may prevent or delay the progression of PD. However, a serious impediment of chronic NSAID therapy, particularly in the elderly, is gastric, renal and cardiac toxicity. Nitric oxide (NO)-donating NSAIDs, have a safer profile while maintaining anti-inflammatory activity of parent compounds. We have investigated the oral activity of the NO-donating derivative of flurbiprofen, [2-fluoro-α-methyl (1,1'-biphenyl)-4-acetic-4-(nitrooxy)butyl ester], HCT1026 (30 mg kg-1 daily in rodent chow) in mice exposed to the parkinsonian neurotoxin MPTP.
Ageing mice were fed with a control, flurbiprofen, or HCT1026 diet starting ten days before MPTP administration and continuing for all the experimental period. Striatal high affinity synaptosomial dopamine up-take, motor coordination assessed with the rotarod, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)- and dopamine transporter (DAT) fiber staining, stereological cell counts, immunoblotting and gene expression analyses were used to assess MPTP-induced nigrostriatal DAergic toxicity and glial activation 1-40 days post-MPTP.
HCT1026 was well tolerated and did not cause any measurable toxic effect, whereas flurbiprofen fed mice showed severe gastrointestinal side-effects. HCT1026 efficiently counteracted motor impairment and reversed MPTP-induced decreased synaptosomal [3H]dopamine uptake, TH- and DAT-stained fibers in striatum and TH+ neuron loss in subtantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc), as opposed to age-matched mice fed with a control diet. These effects were associated to a significant decrease in reactive macrophage antigen-1 (Mac-1)-positive microglial cells within the striatum and ventral midbrain, decreased expression of iNOS, Mac-1 and NADPH oxidase (PHOX), and downregulation of 3-Nitrotyrosine, a peroxynitrite finger print, in SNpc DAergic neurons.
Oral treatment with HCT1026 has a safe profile and a significant efficacy in counteracting MPTP-induced dopaminergic (DAergic) neurotoxicity, motor impairment and microglia activation in ageing mice. HCT1026 provides a novel promising approach towards the development of effective pharmacological neuroprotective strategies against PD.
PMCID: PMC3000390  PMID: 21092260
24.  Nitrated alpha-synuclein and microglial neuroregulatory activities 
Microglial neuroinflammatory responses affect the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease (PD). We posit that such neuroinflammatory responses are, in part, mediated by microglial interactions with nitrated and aggregated α-synuclein (α-syn) released from Lewy bodies as a consequence of dopaminergic neuronal degeneration. As disease progresses, secretions from α-syn activated microglia can engage neighboring glial cells in a cycle of autocrine and paracrine amplification of neurotoxic immune products. Such pathogenic processes affect the balance between a microglial neurotrophic and neurotoxic signature. We now report that microglia secrete both neurotoxic and neuroprotective factors following exposure to nitrated α-syn (N-α-syn). Proteomic [surface enhanced laser desorption-time of flight (SELDI-TOF), 1D SDS electrophoresis, and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry] and limited metabolomic profiling demonstrated that N-α-syn activated microglia secrete inflammatory, regulatory, redox-active, enzymes, and cytoskeletal proteins. Increased extracellular glutamate and cysteine, dimininshed intracellular glutathione and secreted exosomal proteins were also demonstrated. Increased redox active proteins suggest regulatory microglial responses to N-α-syn. These were linked to discontinuous cystatin expression, cathepsin activity, and NF-κB activation. Inhibition of cathepsin B attenuated, in part, N-α-syn-microglial neurotoxicity. These data support multifaceted microglia functions in PD-associated neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC2430927  PMID: 18202920
alpha synuclein; microglia; Parkinson’s disease; proteomics; glutamate; neuroinflammation
25.  Targeting Wnt signaling at the neuroimmune interface for dopaminergic neuroprotection/repair in Parkinson’s disease 
During the past three decades, the Wingless-type MMTV integration site (Wnt) signaling cascade has emerged as an essential system regulating multiple processes in developing and adult brain. Accumulating evidence points to a dysregulation of Wnt signaling in major neurodegenerative pathologies including Parkinson’s disease (PD), a common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive loss of midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons and deregulated activation of astrocytes and microglia. This review highlights the emerging link between Wnt signaling and key inflammatory pathways during mDA neuron damage/repair in PD progression. In particular, we summarize recent evidence documenting that aging and neurotoxicant exposure strongly antagonize Wnt/β-catenin signaling in mDA neurons and subventricular zone (SVZ) neuroprogenitors via astrocyte–microglial interactions. Dysregulation of the crosstalk between Wnt/β-catenin signaling and anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory pathways delineate novel mechanisms driving the decline of SVZ plasticity with age and the limited nigrostriatal dopaminergic self-repair in PD. These findings hold a promise in developing therapies that target Wnt/β-catenin signaling to enhance endogenous restoration and neuronal outcome in age-dependent diseases, such as PD.
PMCID: PMC4061726  PMID: 24431301
Wnt/β-catenin signaling; Parkinson’s disease; neuroinflammation; dopaminergic neurons; neurogenesis; neurodegeneration; neuroprotection

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