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Exp Neurol. 2003 Dec;184(2):659-68.

Microglial response is poorly correlated with neurodegeneration following chronic, low-dose MPTP administration in monkeys.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Many investigators have reported extensive microglial activation in the mouse substantia nigra and striatum following acute, high-dose 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) administration. Our previous work demonstrated tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive fiber sprouting in the striatum in monkeys that had received a partial dopaminergic lesion using a low-dose, chronic MPTP administration paradigm. To characterize the microglial response, we utilized HLA-DR (LN3) to immunolabel the class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC II). In MPTP-treated monkeys, there was an intense microglial response in the substantia nigra, nigrostriatal tract, and in both segments of the globus pallidus. This response was morphologically heterogeneous, with commingled ramified, activated, and multicellular morphologies throughout the extent of these basal ganglia structures. Surprisingly, there was little evidence of microglial reactivity in the striatum despite evidence of neurodegeneration-by silver labeling and by loss of TH immunolabeling. Moreover, this pattern of microglial reactivity was the same in all animals that had received MPTP and seemed to be independent of the degree of neurotoxin-induced neurodegeneration. Thus, we conclude that microglial reactivity, per se, is not consistently associated with neurodegeneration, but depends on regional differences.

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