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1.  Disease duration and the integrity of the nigrostriatal system in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(8):2419-2431.
The pace of nigrostriatal degeneration, both with regards to striatal denervation and loss of melanin and tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons, is poorly understood especially early in the Parkinson’s disease process. This study investigated the extent of nigrostriatal degeneration in patients with Parkinson’s disease at different disease durations from time of diagnosis. Brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease (n = 28) with post-diagnostic intervals of 1–27 years and normal elderly control subjects (n = 9) were examined. Sections of the post-commissural putamen and substantia nigra pars compacta were processed for tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter immunohistochemistry. The post-commissural putamen was selected due to tissue availability and the fact that dopamine loss in this region is associated with motor disability in Parkinson’s disease. Quantitative assessments of putaminal dopaminergic fibre density and stereological estimates of the number of melanin-containing and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (both in total and in subregions) were performed by blinded investigators in cases where suitable material was available (n = 17). Dopaminergic markers in the dorsal putamen showed a modest loss at 1 year after diagnosis in the single case available for study. There was variable (moderate to marked) loss, at 3 years. At 4 years post-diagnosis and thereafter, there was virtually complete loss of staining in the dorsal putamen with only an occasional abnormal dopaminergic fibre detected. In the substantia nigra pars compacta, there was a 50–90% loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons from the earliest time points studied with only marginal additional loss thereafter. There was only a ∼10% loss of melanized neurons in the one case evaluated 1 year post-diagnosis, and variable (30 to 60%) loss during the first several years post-diagnosis with more gradual and subtle loss in the second decade. At all time points, there were more melanin-containing than tyrosine hydroxylase-positive cells. Loss of dopaminergic markers in the dorsal putamen occurs rapidly and is virtually complete by 4 years post-diagnosis. Loss of melanized nigral neurons lags behind the loss of dopamine markers. These findings have important implications for understanding the nature of Parkinson’s disease neurodegeneration and for studies of putative neuroprotective/restorative therapies.
PMCID: PMC3722357  PMID: 23884810
Parkinsons disease; human brain; morphometry; substantia nigra; neuroscience
Neurobiology of disease  2011;43(3):552-557.
Multiple laboratories have recently demonstrated that long-term dopaminergic transplants form Lewy bodies in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Debate has arisen as to whether these Lewy bodies form from the transfer of alpha synuclein from the host to the graft or whether they form from intrinsic responses of the graft from being placed into what was, or became, an inflammatory focus. To test whether the former hypothesis was possible, we grafted fetal rat ventral mesencephalon into the dopamine depleted striatum of rats that had previously received 6-hydroxydopamine lesions. One month after the transplant, rats received viral over expression of human alpha synuclein (AAV2/6 - alpha synuclein) or green fluorescent protein (AAV2/6-GFP) into the striatum rostral to the grafts. Care was taken to make sure the AAV injections were sufficiently distal to the graft so no cells would be directly transfected. All rats were sacrificed five weeks after the virus injections. Double label immunohistochemistry combined with confocal microscopy revealed that a small number of grafted tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) neurons (5.7%+ 1.5% (mean + SEM) of grafted dopamine cells) expressed host derived alpha synuclein but none of the grafted cells expressed host-derived GFP. The alpha synuclein in a few of these cells was misfolded and failed to be digested with proteinase K. These data indicate that it is possible for host derived alpha synuclein to transfer to grafted neurons supporting the concept that this is one possible mechanism by which grafted dopamine neurons form Lewy bodies in Parkinson’s disease patients.
PMCID: PMC3430516  PMID: 21600984
3.  Long-term gonadal hormone treatment and endogenous neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the adult female monkey 
Experimental neurology  2010;224(1):252-257.
Neurogenesis occurs continually throughout life in all mammals and the extent of neurogenesis is influenced by many factors including gonadal hormones. Most research regarding hormones and neurogenesis has been performed on non-primate species. To determine whether gonadal hormones can modulate endogenous neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus in non-human primates, ovariectomized (OVX) female rhesus monkeys received continuous, unopposed β-estradiol (OVX-E-Con), cyclic unopposed β-estradiol (OVX-E-Cyc), continuous β-estradiol + cyclic progesterone (OVX-E-Con+P-Cyc), or control (OVX-Veh) treatments. At week 29, all monkeys received BrdU injections for four consecutive days, in addition to the ongoing treatment. Twenty days after the last BrdU injection, all animals were sacrificed for tissue collection. In DG of hippocampus, scattered BrdU-ir cells were observed mainly in the subgranular zone (SGZ) and in the granule cell layer and occasionally these BrdU-ir cells in the SGZ formed clusters containing between 2–5 cells. In the granule cell layer and SGZ, virtually none of the BrdU-ir cells were either Dcx, a marker of immature neurons, or GFAP positive. However, an occasional BrdU-ir cell was positive for both neuronal marker NeuN or β III-tubulin. Unbiased stereological analysis of BrdU-ir cells within the SGZ and the granule cell layer of DG revealed that among the experimental groups, there was no significant difference in number of BrdU-ir cells within the SGZ and the granule cell layer of the DG: OVX-E-Con (1801+218.7), OVX-E-Cyc (1783+415.6), OVX-E-Con+P-Cyc (1721+229.6), and OVX-Veh (1263+106.3), but a trend towards increased BrdU-ir cells was observed in all the experimental groups.
PMCID: PMC2885495  PMID: 20362573
monkey; hippocampal neurogenesis; dentate gyrus; estrogen
4.  Future of Cell and Gene Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease 
Annals of neurology  2008;64(0 2):S122-S138.
The experimental field of restorative neurology continues to advance with implantation of cells or transfer of genes to treat patients with neurological disease. Both strategies have generated a consensus that demonstrates their capacity for structural and molecular brain modification in the adult brain. However, both approaches have yet to successfully address the complexities to make such novel therapeutic modalities work in the clinic. Prior experimental cell transplantation to patients with PD utilized dissected pieces of fetal midbrain tissue, containing mixtures of cells and neuronal types, as donor cells. Stem cell and progenitor cell biology provide new opportunities for selection and development of large batches of specific therapeutic cells. This may allow for cell composition analysis and dosing to optimize the benefit to an individual patient. The biotechnology used for cell and gene therapy for treatment of neurological disease may eventually be as advanced as today’s pharmaceutical drug-related design processes. Current gene therapy phase 1 safety trials for PD include the delivery of a growth factor (neurturin via the glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor receptor) and a transmitter enzyme (glutamic acid decarboxylase and aromatic acid decarboxylase). Many new insights from cell biological and molecular studies provide opportunities to selectively express or suppress factors relevant to neuroprotection and improved function of neurons involved in PD. Future gene and cell therapies are likely to coexist with classic pharmacological therapies because their use can be tailored to individual patients’ underlying disease process and need for neuroprotective or restorative interventions.
PMCID: PMC3982797  PMID: 19127583
5.  Nurr1 in Parkinson’s disease and related disorders 
In mammals, the transcription factor Nurr1 is expressed early in development and continues to be detectable throughout the organisms’ lifetime. Nurr1 is involved in the establishment and maintenance of the dopaminergic phenotype within specific central nervous system neuronal subpopulations including the nigrostriatal dopamine system. This protein is reduced over the course of normal aging, which is a major risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, whether Nurr1 expression is affected by PD has not been documented. The present study examined the role of Nurr1 in the maintenance of the dopaminergic phenotype within neurons in substantia nigra in PD compared to patients with diagnoses of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), or age-matched-matched controls. In PD, the optical density (OD) of Nurr1 immunofluorescence was significantly decreased in nigral neurons containing α-synuclein-immunoreactive inclusions. Similarly, the OD of Nurr1 immunofluorescence intensity in the nigra of AD cases was decreased in neurons with neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). In contrast to PD and AD, the OD of Nurr1 immunofluorescence intensity was severely decreased in the neurons with or without NFTs in PSP cases. Decline of Nurr1-ir neuronal number and optical density (OD) was observed within substantia nigra (SN) neurons in PD, but not within hippocampal neurons. The decline in Nurr1-ir expression was correlated with loss of TH immunofluorescence across the four groups. These data demonstrate that Nurr1 deficiency in dopaminergic neurons is associated with the intracellular pathology in both synucleinopathies and tauopathies.
PMCID: PMC2564615  PMID: 16320253
transcription factor; dopaminergic neuron; α-synuclein; neurofilament; substantia nigra
6.  Regulation of CREB and hippocampal plasticity-related genes by peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α 
Cell reports  2013;4(4):724-737.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) α is a transcription factor that regulates genes involved in fatty acid catabolism. Here we provide evidence that PPARα is constitutively expressed in nuclei of hippocampal neurons and surprisingly controls calcium influx and the expression of various plasticity-related genes via direct transcriptional regulation of CREB. Accordingly, Ppara-null, but not Pparb-null, mice are deficient in CREB and memory-associated genes, and have decreased spatial learning and memory. While shRNA knockdown of PPARα in the hippocampus suppressed CREB and NR2A rendering wild type animals markedly poor in consolidating spatial memory, introduction of PPARα to the hippocampus of Ppara-null mice increased hippocampal CREB and NR2A and improved spatial learning and memory. These results together with detailed analyses of CREB, NR2A and spatial learning and memory in bone marrow chimeric animals lacking PPARα in the CNS describe a novel mechanism for transcriptional control of Creb and associated plasticity genes by PPARα.
PMCID: PMC3804033  PMID: 23972989
7.  Testing NF-κB-based therapy in hemiparkinsonian monkeys 
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most common human neurodegenerative disorder affecting movement, balance, flexibility, and coordination. Despite intense investigation, no effective therapy is available to stop the onset PD or halt its progression. The primate model of PD is considered to be one of the best available models for human PD. Since neuroinflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of PD and NF-κB, a proinflammatory transcription factor, participates in the transcription of many proinflammatory molecules, this study evaluates the ability of a peptide corresponding to the NF-κB essential modifier (NEMO)-binding domain (NBD) of IκB kinase (IKK)α or IKKβ to protect dopaminergic neurons in hemiparkinsonian monkeys. First, we found that NF-κB was activated within the substantia nigra pars compacta of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-intoxicated hemiparkinsonian monkeys. However, intramuscular injection of wild type NBD (wtNBD) peptide reduced nigral activation of NF-κB and expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase, protected both the nigrostriatal axis and neurotransmitters, and improved motor functions in hemiparkinsonian monkeys. These findings were specific as mutated NBD peptide did not exhibit such effects. These results may help in the translation of NF-κB-based therapy to PD clinics.
PMCID: PMC3419771  PMID: 22661311
Parkinson’s disease; Monkey; NF-κB; Dopaminergic neurons; Dopamine; Motor function
8.  Continuous DOPA synthesis from a single AAV: dosing and efficacy in models of Parkinson's disease 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2157.
We used a single adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector co-expressing tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and GTP cyclohydrolase 1 (GCH1) to investigate the relationship between vector dose, and the magnitude and rate of recovery in hemi-parkinsonian rats. Intrastriatal injections of >1E10 genomic copies (gc) of TH-GCH1 vector resulted in complete recovery in drug-naïve behavior tests. Lower vector dose gave partial to no functional improvement. Stereological quantification revealed no striatal NeuN+ cell loss in any of the groups, whereas a TH-GCH1 dose of >1E11 gc resulted in cell loss in globus pallidus. Thus, a TH-GCH1 dose of 1E10 gc gave complete recovery without causing neuronal loss. Safety and efficacy was also studied in non-human primates where the control vector resulted in co-expression of the transgenes in caudate-putamen. In the TH-GCH1 group, GCH1 expression was robust but TH was not detectable. Moreover, TH-GCH1 treatment did not result in functional improvement in non-human primates.
PMCID: PMC3703607  PMID: 23831692
9.  Enduring cortical alterations after a single in-vivo treatment of HIV-1 Tat 
Neuroreport  2012;23(14):825-829.
HIV-1 proteins, including the transactivator of transcription (Tat), are believed to be involved in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders by disrupting Ca2+ homeostasis, which leads to progressive dysregulation, damage, or death of neurons in the brain. We have found previously that bath-applied Tat abnormally increased Ca2+ influx through overactivated, voltage-sensitive L-type Ca2+ channels in pyramidal neurons within the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). However, it is unknown whether the Tat-induced Ca2+ dysregulation was mediated by increased activity and/or the number of the L-channels. This study tested the hypothesis that transient/early exposure to Tat in vivo promoted enduring L-channel dysregulation in the mPFC without neuron loss. Accordingly, rats were administered a single intracerebroventricular injection of recombinant Tat (80 µg/20 µl; diluted by cerebrospinal fluids to pathophysiological concentrations) or vehicle. Rats were killed 14 days after injection for immunohistochemical assessments of the mPFC, motor cortex, caudate–putamen, and nucleus accumbens. Stereological estimates for positively stained cells indicated a significant increase in the number of cells expressing the pore-forming Cav1.2-α1c subunit of L-channels in the mPFC compared with other regions in Tat-treated or vehicle-treated rat brains. Optical density measurements showed a Tat-induced increase in glial fibrillary acidic protein expression, indicating astrogliosis in the cortical regions. There was no significant loss of neurons in any brain region investigated. These findings indicate that transient Tat exposure in vivo induced enduring L-channel dysregulation and astrogliosis in the mPFC without neuron loss. Such maladaptations may contribute toward dysregulated Ca2+ homeostasis and neuropathology in the PFC in the early stages of HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3555038  PMID: 22828409
astrogliosis; L-type Ca2+ channels; medial prefrontal cortex; neuroAIDS
10.  Trophic factors therapy in Parkinson’s disease 
Progress in brain research  2009;175:201-216.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder for which there is currently no effective neuroprotective therapy. Patients are typically treated with a combination of drug therapies and/or receive deep brain stimulation to combat behavioral symptoms. The ideal candidate therapy would be the one which prevents neurodegeneration in the brain, thereby halting the progression of debilitating disease symptoms. Neurotrophic factors have been in the forefront of PD research, and clinical trials have been initiated using members of the GDNF family of ligands (GFLs). GFLs have been shown to be trophic to ventral mesencephalic cells, thereby making them good candidates for PD research. This paper examines the use of GDNF and neurturin, two members of the GFL, in both animal models of PD and clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3430519  PMID: 19660658
neurotrophic factors; Parkinson’s disease; glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor family ligands; GDNF; neurturin; gene therapy; clinical trials
11.  Age and Region-Specific Responses of Microglia, but not Astrocytes, Suggest a Role in Selective Vulnerability of Dopamine Neurons After 1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine Exposure in Monkeys 
Glia  2008;56(11):1199-1214.
Little is known about the effects of aging, the strongest risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD), on glial responses to dopamine (DA) neuron degeneration in midbrain subregions that display selective vulnerability to degeneration. We evaluated the impact of aging on astrocytes and microglia in a regionally specific manner in a monkey model of PD. 1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) was delivered unilaterally via the internal carotid artery of young, middle-aged, and old-aged rhesus monkeys. Astrocytes and microglia were identified using glial fibrillary acidic protein and human leukocyte antigen-DR (HLA-DR) immunolabeling, respectively. Glial reactivity was assessed using (1) stereological cell counting, (2) fluorescence intensity, and (3) a morphology rating scale. In the midbrain contralateral and ipsilateral to the MPTP injection, astrocyte number and intensity did not change with age. In both sides of the midbrain, cellular morphology suggested astrocyte hypertrophy in middle-age dissipated in old-age, irrespective of DA subregion and regional differences in vulnerability to degeneration. In the contralateral midbrain, microglia became mildly activated (increased cell number and intensity, and morphological changes) with advancing age. Inflammation was evident at 3 months postlesion by severe microglial activation in the ipsilateral midbrain. HLA-DR fluorescence intensity and an abundance of activated microglia (based on morphological criteria) were consistently exacerbated in the vtSN of both sides of the midbrain. These results suggest the glial responses accompanying aging and DA neuron degeneration following a toxic insult represent persistent alterations in the microenvironment of surviving DA neurons that are important factors in understanding regional differences in susceptibility to degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3388430  PMID: 18484101
Parkinson’s disease; MPTP; aging; animal model; nonhuman primate; nigra; VTA; glia
12.  Ageing as a primary risk factor for Parkinson’s disease: evidence from studies of non-human primates 
Nature Reviews. Neuroscience  2011;12(6):359-366.
Ageing is the greatest risk factor for the development of Parkinson’s disease. However, the current dogma holds that cellular mechanisms that are associated with ageing of midbrain dopamine neurons and those that are related to dopamine neuron degeneration in Parkinson’s disease are unrelated. We propose, based on evidence from studies of non-human primates, that normal ageing and the degeneration of dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease are linked by the same cellular mechanisms and, therefore, that markers of cellular risk factors accumulate with age in a pattern that mimics the pattern of degeneration observed in Parkinson’s disease. We contend that ageing induces a pre-parkinsonian state, and that the cellular mechanisms of dopamine neuron demise during normal ageing are accelerated or exaggerated in Parkinson’s disease through a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
PMCID: PMC3387674  PMID: 21587290
13.  Floor plate-derived dopamine neurons from hESCs efficiently engraft in animal models of PD 
Nature  2011;480(7378):547-551.
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are a promising source of cells for applications in regenerative medicine. Directed differentiation of hPSCs into specialized cells such as spinal motoneurons1 or midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons2 has been achieved. However, the effective use of hPSCs for cell therapy has lagged behind. While mouse PSC-derived DA neurons have shown efficacy in models of Parkinson’s disease (PD)3, 4, DA neurons from human PSCs generally display poor in vivo performance5. There are also considerable safety concerns for hPSCs related to their potential for teratoma formation or neural overgrowth6, 7
Here we present a novel floor plate-based strategy for the derivation of human DA neurons that efficiently engraft in vivo, suggesting that past failures were due to incomplete specification rather than a specific vulnerability of the cells. Midbrain floor plate precursors are derived from hPSCs in 11 days following exposure to small molecule activators of sonic hedgehog (SHH) and canonical WNT signaling. Engraftable midbrain DA neurons are obtained by day 25 and can be maintained in vitro for several months. Extensive molecular profiling, biochemical and electrophysiological data define developmental progression and confirm identity of hPSC-derived midbrain DA neurons. In vivo survival and function is demonstrated in PD models using three host species. Long-term engraftment in 6-OHDA-lesioned mice and rats demonstrates robust survival of midbrain DA neurons, complete restoration of amphetamine-induced rotation behavior and improvements in tests of forelimb use and akinesia. Finally, scalability is demonstrated by transplantation into Parkinsonian monkeys. Excellent DA neuron survival, function and lack of neural overgrowth in the three animal models indicate promise for the development of cell based therapies in PD.
PMCID: PMC3245796  PMID: 22056989
14.  Increased Intestinal Permeability Correlates with Sigmoid Mucosa alpha-Synuclein Staining and Endotoxin Exposure Markers in Early Parkinson's Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28032.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder of aging. The pathological hallmark of PD is neuronal inclusions termed Lewy bodies whose main component is alpha-synuclein protein. The finding of these Lewy bodies in the intestinal enteric nerves led to the hypothesis that the intestine might be an early site of PD disease in response to an environmental toxin or pathogen. One potential mechanism for environmental toxin(s) and proinflammatory luminal products to gain access to mucosal neuronal tissue and promote oxidative stress is compromised intestinal barrier integrity. However, the role of intestinal permeability in PD has never been tested. We hypothesized that PD subjects might exhibit increased intestinal permeability to proinflammatory bacterial products in the intestine. To test our hypothesis we evaluated intestinal permeability in subjects newly diagnosed with PD and compared their values to healthy subjects. In addition, we obtained intestinal biopsies from both groups and used immunohistochemistry to assess bacterial translocation, nitrotyrosine (oxidative stress), and alpha-synuclein. We also evaluated serum markers of endotoxin exposure including LPS binding protein (LBP). Our data show that our PD subjects exhibit significantly greater intestinal permeability (gut leakiness) than controls. In addition, this intestinal hyperpermeability significantly correlated with increased intestinal mucosa staining for E. coli bacteria, nitrotyrosine, and alpha-synuclein as well as serum LBP levels in PD subjects. These data represent not only the first demonstration of abnormal intestinal permeability in PD subjects but also the first correlation of increased intestinal permeability in PD with intestinal alpha–synuclein (the hallmark of PD), as well as staining for gram negative bacteria and tissue oxidative stress. Our study may thus shed new light on PD pathogenesis as well as provide a new method for earlier diagnosis of PD and suggests potential therapeutic targets in PD subjects.
Trial Registration NCT01155492
PMCID: PMC3228722  PMID: 22145021
15.  β-Secretase-1 elevation in aged monkey and Alzheimer's disease human cerebral cortex occurs around vasculature in partnership with multisystem axon terminal pathogenesis and β-amyloid accumulation 
The European journal of neuroscience  2010;32(7):1223-1238.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common dementia-causing disorder in the elderly, which may relate to multiple risk factors and is pathologically featured by cerebral hypometabolism, paravascular β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques, neuritic dystrophy and intra-neuronal aggregation of phosphorylated-tau. To explore potential pathogenic link among some of these lesions, we examined β-secretase-1 (BACE1) alteration relative to Aβ deposition, neuritic pathology and vascular organization in aged monkey and AD human cerebral cortex. Western blot analyses detected increased levels of BACE1 proteins and β-site-cleavage amyloid precursor protein C-terminal fragments in plaque-bearing human and monkey cortex relative to controls. In immunohistochemistry, locally elevated BACE1 immunoreactivity (IR) occurred in AD but not in control human cortex, with a trend of increased overall density among cases with greater plaque pathology. In double labeling preparations, BACE1 IR colocalized with immunolabeling for Aβ but not for phosphorylated tau. In perfusion-fixed monkey cortex, locally increased BACE1 IR co-existed with intra-axonal and extracellular Aβ IR among virtually all neuritic plaques ranging from primitive to typical cored forms. This BACE1 labeling localized to swollen/sprouting axon terminals that might co-express one or another neuronal phenotype marker (GABAergic, glutamatergic, cholinergic or catecholaminergic). Importantly, these BACE1-labeled dystrophic axons resided near or in direct contact with blood vessels. These finds implicate that plaque formation in AD or normal aging primates relate to a multisystem axonal pathogenesis that occurs in partnership with potential vascular or metabolic deficit. The data provide a tangible mechanistic explanation as to why senile plaques are present preferentially near cerebral vasculature.
PMCID: PMC2970759  PMID: 20726888
Neuritic plaque; neuroplasticity; hypometabolism; aging; dementia; non-human primate
16.  Age-related changes in glial cells of dopamine midbrain subregions in rhesus monkeys 
Neurobiology of aging  2008;31(6):937-952.
Aging remains the strongest risk factor for developing Parkinson’s disease (PD), and there is selective vulnerability in midbrain DA neuron degeneration in PD. By tracking normal aging-related changes with an emphasis on regional specificity, factors involved in selective vulnerability and resistance to degeneration can be studied. Towards this end, we sought to determine whether age-related changes in microglia and astrocytes in rhesus monkeys are region-specific, suggestive of involvement in regional differences in vulnerability to degeneration that may be relevant to PD pathogenesis. Gliosis in midbrain DA subregions was measured by estimating glia number using unbiased stereology, assessing fluorescence intensity for proteins upregulated during activation, and rating morphology. With normal aging, microglia exhibited increased staining intensity and a shift to more activated morphologies preferentially in the vulnerable substantia nigra-ventral tier (vtSN). Astrocytes did not exhibit age-related changes consistent with an involvement in regional vulnerability in any measure. Our results suggest advancing age is associated with chronic mild inflammation in the vtSN, which may render these DA neurons more vulnerable to degeneration.
PMCID: PMC2872507  PMID: 18715678
aging; Parkinson’s disease; astrocyte; microglia; glia; midbrain; substantia nigra; ventral tegmental area; dopamine neuron; rhesus monkey; nonhuman primate; selective vulnerability
17.  Differential vulnerability of neurons in Huntington's disease: The role of cell type-specific features 
Journal of neurochemistry  2010;113(5):1073-1091.
Abnormal expansion of a polyglutamine tract in huntingtin (Htt) protein results in Huntington's disease (HD), an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder involving progressive loss of motor and cognitive function. Contrasting with the ubiquitous tissue expression of polyglutamine-expanded Htt (polyQ-Htt), HD pathology is characterized by the increased vulnerability of specific neuronal populations within the striatum and the cerebral cortex. Morphological, biochemical, and functional characteristics of neurons affected in HD that might render these cells more vulnerable to the toxic effects of polyQ-Htt are covered in this review. The differential vulnerability of neurons observed in HD is discussed in the context of various major pathogenic mechanisms proposed to date, and in line with evidence showing a “dying-back” pattern of degeneration in affected neuronal populations.
PMCID: PMC2890032  PMID: 20236390
Huntington's disease; medium-sized spiny neurons; huntingtin; axonal transport; dying back degeneration
18.  Doublecortin expression in adult cat and primate cerebral cortex relates to immature neurons that develop into GABAergic subgroups 
Experimental neurology  2008;216(2):342-356.
DCX-immunoreactive (DCX+) cells occur in the piriform cortex in adult mice and rats, but also in the neocortex in adult guinea pigs and rabbits. Here we describe these cells in adult domestic cats and primates. In cats and rhesus monkeys, DCX+ cells existed across the allo- and neocortex, with an overall ventrodorsal high to low gradient at a given frontal plane. Labeled cells formed a cellular band in layers II and upper III, exhibiting dramatic differences in somal size (5–20 μm), shape (unipolar, bipolar, multipolar and irregular), neuritic complexity and labeling intensity. Cell clusters were also seen in this band, and those in the entorhinal cortex extended into deeper layers as chain-like structures. Densitometry revealed a parallel decline of the cells across regions with age in cats. Besides the cellular band, medium-sized cells with weak DCX reactivity resided sparsely in other layers. Throughout the cortex, virtually all DCX+ cells co-expressed polysialylated neural cell adhesion molecule. Medium to large mature-looking DCX+ cells frequently colocalized with neuron-specific nuclear protein and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and those with a reduced DCX expression also partially co-labeled for glutamic acid decarboxylase, parvalbumin, calbindin, β-nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase and neuronal nitric oxide synthase. Similar to cats and monkeys, small and larger DCX+ cells were detected in surgically removed human frontal and temporal cortices. These data suggest that immature neurons persist into adulthood in many cortical areas in cats and primates, and that these cells appear to undergo development and differentiation to become functional subgroups of GABAergic interneurons.
PMCID: PMC2902881  PMID: 19166833
Interneurons; GABAergic; Layer II; Neuroplasticity; Corticogenesis
19.  TrkA-Immunoreactive Profiles in the Central Nervous System: Colocalization With Neurons Containing p75 Nerve Growth Factor Receptor, Choline Acetyltransferase, and Serotonin 
The present investigation used an antibody directed against the extracellular domain of the signal transducing nerve growth factor receptor, trkA, to reveal immunoreactive perikarya or fibers within the olfactory bulb and tubercle, cingulate cortex, nucleus accumbens, striatum, endopiriform nucleus, septal/diagonal band complex, nucleus basalis, hippocampal complex, thalamic paraventricular and reunions nuclei, periventricular hypothalamus, interpeduncular nucleus, mesencephalic nucleus of the fifth nerve, dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus, prepositus hypoglossal nucleus, ventral cochlear nucleus, ventral lateral tegmentum, medial vestibular nucleus, spinal trigeminal nucleus oralis, nucleus of the solitary tract, raphe nuclei, and spinal cord. Colocalization experiments revealed that virtually all striatal trkA-immunoreactive neurons (> 99%) coexpressed choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) but not p75 nerve growth factor receptor (NGFR). Within the septal/diagonal band complex virtually all trkA neurons (>95%) coexpressed both ChAT and p75 NGFR. More caudally, dual stained sections revealed numerous trkA/ChAT (> 80%) and trkA/p75 NGFR (> 95%) immunoreactive neurons within the nucleus basalis. In the brainstem, raphe serotonergic neurons (45%) coexpressed trkA. Sections stained with a pan-trk antibody that recognizes primarily trkA, as well as trkB and trkC, labeled neurons within all of these regions as well as within the hypothalamic arcuate, supramammilary, and supraoptic nuclei, hippocampus, inferior and superior colliculus, substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area of T’sai, and cerebellar Purkinje cells. Virtually all of these other regions with the exception of the cerebellum also expressed pan-trk immunoreactivity in the monkey. The widespread expression of trkA throughout the central neural axis suggests that this receptor may play a role in signal transduction mechanisms linked to NGF-related substances in cholinergic basal forebrain and non-cholinergic systems. These findings suggest that pharmacological use of ligands for trkA could have beneficial effects on the multiple neuronal systems that are affected in such disorders as Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2710128  PMID: 7890832
tyrosine kinase receptors; nerve growth factor; basal forebrain; rat; monkey
20.  Doublecortin-Expressing Cells Persist in the Associative Cerebral Cortex and Amygdala in Aged Nonhuman Primates 
A novel population of cells that express typical immature neuronal markers including doublecortin (DCX+) has been recently identified throughout the adult cerebral cortex of relatively large mammals (guinea pig, rabbit, cat, monkey and human). These cells are more common in the associative relative to primary cortical areas and appear to develop into interneurons including type II nitrinergic neurons. Here we further describe these cells in the cerebral cortex and amygdala, in comparison with DCX+ cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus, in three age groups of rhesus monkeys: young adult (12.3 ± 0.2 years, n = 3), mid-age (21.2 ± 1.9 years, n = 3) and aged (31.3 ± 1.8 years, n = 4). DCX+ cells with a heterogeneous morphology persisted in layers II/III primarily over the associative cortex and amygdala in all groups (including in two old animals with cerebral amyloid pathology), showing a parallel decline in cell density with age across regions. In contrast to the cortex and amygdala, DCX+ cells in the subgranular zone diminished in the mid-age and aged groups. DCX+ cortical cells might arrange as long tangential migratory chains in the mid-age and aged animals, with apparently distorted cell clusters seen in the aged group. Cortical DCX+ cells colocalized commonly with polysialylated neural cell adhesion molecule and partially with neuron-specific nuclear protein and γ-aminobutyric acid, suggesting a potential differentiation of these cells into interneuron phenotype. These data suggest a life-long role for immature interneuron-like cells in the associative cerebral cortex and amygdala in nonhuman primates.
PMCID: PMC2766270  PMID: 19862344
neuroplasticity; interneurons; neurogenesis; aging; neuropsychiatric disorders
21.  Aging-Related Changes in the Nigrostriatal Dopamine System and the Response to MPTP in Nonhuman Primates: Diminished Compensatory Mechanisms as a Prelude to Parkinsonism 
Neurobiology of disease  2007;26(1):56-65.
Aging is the most prominent risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. Yet, consensus of how advancing age may predispose the dopamine (DA) system to parkinsonism is lacking. Three age-ranges of female rhesus monkeys, 8–9, 15–17 and 21–31 years, received unilateral DA depletion with intracarotid 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP). Morphological and biochemical analyses of DA-depleted and intact hemispheres revealed three primary findings: 1) The intact striatum exhibited age-related declines in dopamine (DA) and homovanillic acid (HVA) that were present by middle-age; 2) In the MPTP-treated striatum, the compensatory increase in DA activity was absent in old monkeys; and, 3) Age-associated morphological changes included declines in the density of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) positive fibers in striatum, decreased nigral soma size and optical density of TH, but no significant loss of neurons. These findings suggest that aging produces changes in the nigrostriatal DA system that approach the threshold for expression of parkinsonian features, and that progressive impairment of plasticity may be central to the role of aging in development of parkinsonism.
PMCID: PMC1899875  PMID: 17254792
aging; dopamine; substantia nigra; parkinsonism; MPTP; monkey

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