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Neuroscience. 2001;103(3):639-51.

Mechanisms of the effects of exogenous levodopa on the dopamine-denervated striatum.

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Department of Morphological Sciences, University of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.


The efficacy of exogenous levodopa (L-DOPA) is attributed to its conversion to dopamine by the enzyme aromatic L-amino-acid decarboxylase in striatal dopaminergic terminals. However, there is controversy about the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic and adverse effects of L-DOPA after almost all striatal dopaminergic afferents have disappeared (i.e. in the later stages of Parkinson's disease). After administration of 30mg/kg or 100mg/kg of L-DOPA, rats subjected to unilateral dopaminergic denervation showed intense contraversive rotation and a high density of Fos-immunoreactive nuclei throughout the denervated striatum, with no significant induction of Fos in the intact striatum. Injection of the central aromatic L-amino-acid decarboxylase inhibitor NSD-1015 30min before and 15min after the injection of L-DOPA suppressed the rotational behavior and the striatal induction of Fos. Comparison of results obtained in rats subjected to unilateral and bilateral dopaminergic denervation indicated that the presence of contralateral dopaminergic innervation does not significantly modulate the effects of L-DOPA on the denervated striatum. Serotonergic denervation led to slight and statistically non-significant decrease in the rotational behavior and Fos expression induced by high doses of L-DOPA (100mg/kg) in the dopamine-denervated striatum, but totally suppressed the rotational behavior and Fos expression induced by low doses of L-DOPA (30mg/kg). The present data indicate that the major effects observed after administration of exogenous L-DOPA are not due to a direct action of L-DOPA on dopamine receptors, or to extrastriatal release of dopamine, but to conversion of L-DOPA to dopamine by serotonergic terminals and probably some intrastriatal cells. Given that serotonergic neurons appear to play an important role in the action of L-DOPA in the later stages of Parkinson's disease, strategies targeting the serotonergic system should be considered for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and for combating undesirable side effects of L-DOPA therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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