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Neurosci Res. 2003 Dec;47(4):431-6.

Effects of orally administered levodopa on mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons undergoing a degenerative process.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Farmacológicas (ININFA), UBA-CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Although the issue of in vivo levodopa toxicity appears to be settled by now in the light of recent findings, a crucial aspect was not accounted for the experiments designed to tackle that question. Levodopa could in fact be non-toxic on surviving dopamine neurons, but that could not be the case when the drug is administered at the same time those neurons are undergoing degeneration, which is what happens in the clinical setting. Dopaminergic neurons could in that situation be more vulnerable to levodopa's potential toxic action. Our aim was to determine if oral administration of levodopa is toxic for mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons that are actively involved in a degenerative process. We induced delayed retrograde degeneration of the nigrostriatal system in rats by injecting 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) intrastriatally. Treatment was started the day after the injection. Dopaminergic markers were histologically studied at the striatal and nigral levels, to determine degree of damage of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system in levodopa- and vehicle-treated rats. No significant differences between levodopa or vehicle-treated rats were found in: (i) striatal immunoautoradiographic labeling for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and the membrane dopamine transporter (DAT); (ii) cell counts of TH-immunoreactive (TH-ir) neurons remaining in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area (VTA); (iii) surface area of remaining TH-immunoreactive neurons in the substantia nigra. The present experiments demonstrate that levodopa does not enhance delayed retrograde degeneration of dopaminergic neurons induced by intrastriatal administration of 6-OHDA.

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