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1.  Global gene expression profiling of somatic motor neuron populations with different vulnerability identify molecules and pathways of degeneration and protection 
Brain  2010;133(8):2313-2330.
Different somatic motor neuron subpopulations show a differential vulnerability to degeneration in diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and spinobulbar muscular atrophy. Studies in mutant superoxide dismutase 1 over-expressing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis model mice indicate that initiation of disease is intrinsic to motor neurons, while progression is promoted by astrocytes and microglia. Therefore, analysis of the normal transcriptional profile of motor neurons displaying differential vulnerability to degeneration in motor neuron disease could give important clues to the mechanisms of relative vulnerability. Global gene expression profiling of motor neurons isolated by laser capture microdissection from three anatomical nuclei of the normal rat, oculomotor/trochlear (cranial nerve 3/4), hypoglossal (cranial nerve 12) and lateral motor column of the cervical spinal cord, displaying differential vulnerability to degeneration in motor neuron disorders, identified enriched transcripts for each neuronal subpopulation. There were striking differences in the regulation of genes involved in endoplasmatic reticulum and mitochondrial function, ubiquitination, apoptosis regulation, nitrogen metabolism, calcium regulation, transport, growth and RNA processing; cellular pathways that have been implicated in motor neuron diseases. Confirmation of genes of immediate biological interest identified differential localization of insulin-like growth factor II, guanine deaminase, peripherin, early growth response 1, soluble guanylate cyclase 1A3 and placental growth factor protein. Furthermore, the cranial nerve 3/4-restricted genes insulin-like growth factor II and guanine deaminase protected spinal motor neurons from glutamate-induced toxicity (P < 0.001, ANOVA), indicating that our approach can identify factors that protect or make neurons more susceptible to degeneration.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq167
PMCID: PMC3139939  PMID: 20826431
motor neuron; SOD1G93A rat; microarray; hierarchical clustering; cranial nerves; cervical spinal cord; IGF-II
2.  The transcription factor orthodenticle homeobox 2 influences axonal projections and vulnerability of midbrain dopaminergic neurons 
Brain  2010;133(7):2022-2031.
Two adjacent groups of midbrain dopaminergic neurons, A9 (substantia nigra pars compacta) and A10 (ventral tegmental area), have distinct projections and exhibit differential vulnerability in Parkinson’s disease. Little is known about transcription factors that influence midbrain dopaminergic subgroup phenotypes or their potential role in disease. Here, we demonstrate elevated expression of the transcription factor orthodenticle homeobox 2 in A10 dopaminergic neurons of embryonic and adult mouse, primate and human midbrain. Overexpression of orthodenticle homeobox 2 using lentivirus increased levels of known A10 elevated genes, including neuropilin 1, neuropilin 2, slit2 and adenylyl cyclase-activating peptide in both MN9D cells and ventral mesencephalic cultures, whereas knockdown of endogenous orthodenticle homeobox 2 levels via short hairpin RNA reduced expression of these genes in ventral mesencephalic cultures. Lack of orthodenticle homeobox 2 in the ventral mesencephalon of orthodenticle homeobox 2 conditional knockout mice caused a reduction of midbrain dopaminergic neurons and selective loss of A10 dopaminergic projections. Orthodenticle homeobox 2 overexpression protected dopaminergic neurons in ventral mesencephalic cultures from Parkinson’s disease-relevant toxin, 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium, whereas downregulation of orthodenticle homeobox 2 using short hairpin RNA increased their susceptibility. These results show that orthodenticle homeobox 2 is important for establishing subgroup phenotypes of post-mitotic midbrain dopaminergic neurons and may alter neuronal vulnerability.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq142
PMCID: PMC2892944  PMID: 20573704
axon; protection; Parkinson’s disease; neuropeptides; transcription factor
3.  Parthenogenetic dopamine neurons from primate embryonic stem cells restore function in experimental Parkinson's disease 
Brain  2008;131(8):2127-2139.
The identity and functional potential of dopamine neurons derived in vitro from embryonic stem cells are critical for the development of a stem cell-based replacement therapy for Parkinson's disease. Using a parthenogenetic primate embryonic stem cell line, we have generated dopamine neurons that display persistent expression of midbrain regional and cell-specific transcription factors, which establish their proper identity and allow for their survival. We show here that transplantation of parthenogenetic dopamine neurons restores motor function in hemi-parkinsonian, 6-hydroxy-dopamine-lesioned rats. Exposure to Wnt5a and fibroblast growth factors (FGF) 20 and 2 at the final stage of in vitro differentiation enhanced the survival of dopamine neurons and, correspondingly, the extent of motor recovery of transplanted animals. Importantly for future development of clinical applications, dopamine neurons were post-mitotic at the time of transplantation and there was no tumour formation. These data provide proof for the concept that parthenogenetic stem cells are a suitable source of functional neurons for therapeutic applications.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn144
PMCID: PMC2724903  PMID: 18669499
stem cells; transplantation; midbrain; Parkinson's disease; parthenogenesis
4.  Cell type analysis of functional fetal dopamine cell suspension transplants in the striatum and substantia nigra of patients with Parkinson’s disease 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2005;128(Pt 7):1498-1510.
We report the first post-mortem analysis of two patients with Parkinson’s disease who received fetal midbrain transplants as a cell suspension in the striatum, and in one case also in the substantia nigra. These patients had a favourable clinical evolution and positive 18F-fluorodopa PET scans and did not develop motor complications. The surviving transplanted dopamine neurons were positively identified with phenotypic markers of normal control human substantia nigra (n = 3), such as tyrosine hydroxylase, G-protein-coupled inward rectifying current potassium channel type 2 (Girk2) and calbindin. The grafts restored the cell type that provides specific dopaminergic innervation to the most affected striatal regions in the parkinsonian brain. Such transplants were able to densely reinnervate the host putamen with new dopamine fibres. The patients received only 6 months of standard immune suppression, yet by post-mortem analysis 3–4 years after surgery the transplants appeared only mildly immunogenic to the host brain, by analysis of microglial CD45 and CD68 markers. This study demonstrates that, using these methods, dopamine neuronal replacement cell therapy can be beneficial for patients with advanced disease, and that changing technical approaches could have a favourable impact on efficacy and adverse events following neural transplantation.
doi:10.1093/brain/awh510
PMCID: PMC2610438  PMID: 15872020
transplantation; dopamine neuron; Parkinson’s disease

Results 1-4 (4)