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Brain Res. 2007 Mar 2;1135(1):219-29. Epub 2006 Dec 15.

Abnormal involuntary movements (AIMs) following pulsatile dopaminergic stimulation: severe deterioration and morphological correlates following the loss of locus coeruleus neurons.

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Department of Human Morphology and Applied Biology, University of Pisa, Italy.


Parkinsonian patients are treated with dopamine replacement therapy (typically, intermittent administration of the dopamine precursor L-DOPA); however, this is associated with the onset of abnormal involuntary movements, which seriously impair the quality of life. The molecular mechanisms underlying abnormal involuntary movements represent an intense field of investigation in the area of neurobiology of disease, although their aetiology remains unclear. Apart from the fine cellular mechanisms, the pathways responsible for the generation of abnormal involuntary movements may involve changes in neurotransmitter systems. A potential candidate is noradrenaline, since a severe loss of this neurotransmitter characterizes Parkinson's disease, and noradrenergic drugs produce a symptomatic relief of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia. In previous studies we found that pulsatile dopamine release, in the absence of the physiological noradrenaline innervation, produces motor alterations and ultrastructural changes within striatal neurons. In the present study we demonstrate that a unilateral damage to the noradrenaline system anticipates the onset and worsens the severity of L-DOPA-induced contralateral abnormal involuntary movements in hemi-parkinsonian rats. Similarly, ubiquitin-positive striatal ultrastructural changes occur in unilaterally dopamine-depleted, noradrenaline-deficient rats following chronic L-DOPA administration. This study confirms a significant impact of the noradrenergic system in the natural history of Parkinson's disease and extends its role to the behavioural and morphological effects taking place during pulsatile dopamine replacement therapy.

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