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Exp Neurol. 2005 Jan;191(1):154-62.

Age-dependent dopaminergic dysfunction in Nurr1 knockout mice.

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Parkinson Disease Research Laboratory, Department of Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The Nurr1 gene, which codes for a transcriptional factor in the nuclear receptor superfamily, plays an important role in the development of the mesencephalic dopaminergic (DAergic) system. To study the age-dependent effects of Nurr1 expression in maintaining mature nigrostriatal DAergic neuronal function, we examined motor behaviors, determined nigrostriatal dopamine (DA) levels and the number of nigral DAergic neurons, and measured the expression of several DAergic neuron-associated genes in heterozygous Nurr1-deficient (Nurr1+/-) and wild-type mice of different ages. In contrast to the same-aged, wild-type mice, old Nurr1+/- mice (>15 months) had a significant decrease in both rotarod performance and locomotor activities, suggesting a motor impairment that is analogous to parkinsonian deficit. Furthermore, the abnormal motor behaviors in old Nurr1+/- mice were associated with decreased DA levels in the striatum, decreased number of DAergic neurons in the nigra, and reduced expression of Nurr1 and DA transporter in the nigra. Our data indicate that Nurr1 plays an important role in the functional maintenance and survival of nigral DAergic neurons and suggest that the Nurr1+/- mouse is a useful animal model to study the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease (PD) and to explore disease-modifying strategies.

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