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J Neurosci. 2007 Jan 17;27(3):459-71.

Fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-2 and FGF receptor 3 are required for the development of the substantia nigra, and FGF-2 plays a crucial role for the rescue of dopaminergic neurons after 6-hydroxydopamine lesion.

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Department of Neuroanatomy, Hannover Medical School, Center for Systems Neuroscience Hannover, 30625 Hannover, Germany.


Basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) is involved in the development and maintenance of the nervous system. Exogenous administration of FGF-2 increased dopaminergic (DA) graft survival in different animal models of Parkinson's disease. To study the physiological function of the endogenous FGF-2 system, we analyzed the nigrostriatal system of mice lacking FGF-2, mice overexpressing FGF-2, and FGF-receptor-3 (FGFR3)-deficient mice both after development and after 6-hydroxydopamine lesion. FGFR3-deficient mice (+/-) displayed a reduced number of DA neurons compared with the respective wild type. Whereas absence of FGF-2 led to significantly increased numbers of DA neurons, enhanced amount of the growth factor in mice overexpressing FGF-2 resulted in less tyrosine hydroxylase expression and a reduced DA cell density. The volumes of the substantia nigra were enlarged in both FGF-2(-/-) and in FGF-2 transgenic mice, suggesting an important role of FGF-2 for the establishment of the proper number of DA neurons and a normal sized substantia nigra during development. In a second set of experiments, the putative relevance of endogenous FGF-2 after neurotoxin application was investigated regarding the number of rescued DA neurons after partial 6-OHDA lesion. Interestingly, the results after lesion were directly opposed to the results after development: significantly less DA neurons survived in FGF-2(-/-) mice compared with wild-type mice. Together, the results indicate that FGFR3 is crucially involved in regulating the number of DA neurons. The lack of FGF-2 seems to be (over)compensated during development, but, after lesion, compensation mechanisms fail. The transgenic mice showed that endogenous FGF-2 protects DA neurons from 6-OHDA neurotoxicity.

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