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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jul 30;279(31):32626-32. Epub 2004 May 20.

The herbicide paraquat induces dopaminergic nigral apoptosis through sustained activation of the JNK pathway.

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Buck Institute for Age Research, Novato, California 94945, USA.


Environmental exposure to the oxidant-producing herbicide paraquat has been implicated as a risk factor in Parkinson's disease. Although intraperitoneal paraquat injections in mice cause a selective loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, the exact mechanism involved is still poorly understood. Our data show that paraquat induces the sequential phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and c-Jun and the activation of caspase-3 and sequential neuronal death both in vitro and in vivo. These effects are diminished by the specific JNK inhibitor SP600125 and the antioxidant manganese(III) tetrakis (4-benzoic acid) porphyrin in vitro. Furthermore, JNK pathway inhibitor CEP-11004 effectively blocks paraquat-induced dopaminergic neuronal death in vivo. These results suggest that the JNK signaling cascade is a direct activator of the paraquat-mediated nigral dopaminergic neuronal apoptotic machinery and provides a molecular linkage between oxidative stress and neuronal apoptosis.

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