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Exp Neurol. 2004 Jun;187(2):418-29.

Behavioral and immunohistochemical effects of chronic intravenous and subcutaneous infusions of varying doses of rotenone.

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Department of Neurology, The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1769, USA.


Mitochondrial toxins such as the complex 1 inhibitor rotenone are widely used as pesticides and may be present in military environments. Administration of rotenone can induce biochemical and histological alterations similar to those of Parkinson's disease in rats. However, only a subset of animals show these effects and it is unclear whether more subtle alterations are caused by chronic administration of rotenone in those animals that appear resistant to its toxic effects on dopaminergic nerve terminals. To address this question, vehicle or rotenone (2.0, 2.5, or 3.5 mg/kg/day) was administered intravenously or subcutaneously for 21 days to adult rats, and rotenone effects on survival, motor behavior, and striatal tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity (TH-IR) were examined. Both intravenous and subcutaneous rotenone induced a dose-dependent decrease in survival rates. Surviving animals showed a decrease in spontaneous rearing. Locomotor activity and movement initiation time were also altered in some of the experimental groups. Confirming previous results, TH-IR in the striatum was markedly decreased in rats that fell ill early in the study and in a few of the surviving rats with high rotenone doses. However, none of the surviving rats receiving 2.0 mg/kg/day showed TH-IR loss reminiscent of Parkinson's disease, and loss of striatal TH-IR across doses was not correlated with motor behavior in individual rats. Thus, chronic administration of low doses of rotenone induces motor anomalies even in animals that do not develop histological signs of Parkinson's disease, indicating a pervasive neurological effect of moderate mitochondrial dysfunction in vivo.

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