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Neuroscience. 1999;92(2):699-704.

Hypoxia during early developmental period induces long-term changes in the dopamine content and release in a mesencephalic cell culture.

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Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiochemistry, Charité Hospital, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.


The present study was conducted to elucidate the long-term effects of exposure to hypoxia of dopaminergic neurons during the early developmental period. Primary mesencephalic cell cultures prepared from fetal rats and containing 0.5-2% of dopaminergic neurons were exposed to hypoxia between in vitro days 1 and 6, the putative critical developmental period. Changes in the content, release and uptake of dopamine were found to depend on the degree of hypoxia and on the duration of exposure. Following moderate hypoxia (7 h, 5% O2) on two consecutive days between in vitro days 1 and 3, the cultures showed a small increase in the dopamine levels, by 16%. After severe hypoxia (0% O2/95% N2 for 24 h), during the same time window, the cellular dopamine content was elevated by 100%. Moreover, severe hypoxia produced long-lasting modulations of the dopaminergic system. On in vitro day 14, cells exhibited increased levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and homovanillic acid (by 34% and 55%, respectively), and elevations of both the spontaneous and potassium-stimulated dopamine release by 70%. The dopamine transport and metabolism of cells exposed to hypoxia between in vitro days 4 and 6 remained unchanged with regard to long-term effects. The present study provides strong evidence for the induction of long-term changes in dopaminergic cells due to hypoxia during the critical developmental period in mesencephalic culture. The developmental period capable of inducing long-lasting changes in dopamine metabolism is restricted to in vitro days 1-3.

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