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J Neurochem. 2001 Oct;79(1):200-10.

Noradrenaline provides long-term protection to dopaminergic neurons by reducing oxidative stress.

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INSERM U289, Experimental Neurology and Therapeutics, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris, France.


To better understand the neurotrophic function of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, we have developed a model of mesencephalic cultures in which we find low concentrations (0.3-10 microM) of noradrenaline to be remarkably effective in promoting long-term survival and function of dopaminergic neurons. This protective action reproduced the effect of caspase inhibition. It was atypical in that it occurred independently of adrenoceptor activation and was mimicked by some antioxidants, redox metal chelators and the hydroxyl radical detoxifying enzyme catalase. Interestingly, intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) were drastically reduced by treatment with noradrenaline, indicating that the neurotransmitter itself acted as an antioxidant. Prevention of oxidative stress was, however, independent of the glutathione antioxidant defense system. Chemical analogues of noradrenaline bearing two free hydroxyl groups in the ortho position of the aromatic ring (o-catechols), as well as o-catechol itself, mimicked the survival promoting effects of the neurotransmitter, suggesting that this diphenolic structure was critical for both neuroprotection and reduction of ROS production. Paradoxically, the autoxidation of noradrenaline and the ensuing production of quinone metabolites may be required for both effects, as the neurotransmitter was spontaneously and rapidly degraded over time in the culture medium. These results support the concept that central noradrenergic mechanisms have a neuroprotective role, perhaps in part by reducing oxidative stress.

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