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Toxicology. 2000 Nov 16;153(1-3):157-66.

Cell death induced by MPTP, a substrate for monoamine oxidase B.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell'Uomo, Universit√† di Roma I, Viale dell' Universit√† 32, 00185,., Rome, Italy.


MPTP is known to cause PD symptoms in primates and in rodents. In order to exert its neurotoxicity MPTP must be converted by monoamine oxidase B into MPP(+) which is the true toxic agent. MPP(+) is taken up by the dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra in which it induces cell death. The present work reviews and discusses papers in which specific methods were used to determine whether cell death induced by MPTP/MPP(+) should be considered as apoptosis or necrosis. These two cell death modes may be distinguished using morphological and biochemical criteria. The effect of MPTP/MPP(+) was studied in vitro and in vivo. The results show that no univocal answer is possible. The most widespread interpretation is that MPTP/MPP(+) causes apoptosis when its neurotoxic effect is only sligh and necrosis when it is stronger. Similar considerations may be made also concerning the type of cell death occurring in the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra of PD patients.

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