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Histol Histopathol. 1991 Jul;6(3):373-80.

Pathological changes in dendrites of substantia nigra neurons in Parkinson's disease: a Golgi study.

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Institute of Neuropathology, Free University of Berlin, Germany.


Neurons of the substantia nigra show severe morphological changes in Parkinson's disease. Pathological alterations of cell bodies have been described, whereas those of neuronal processes have hardly been investigated. Golgi impregnation has been the chosen method for demonstrating neuronal processes and dendritic and somatic spines. We therefore used the Golgi-Braitenberg method to qualitatively and semi-quantitatively study the substantia nigra of eight patients with Parkinson's disease compared with eight control cases. Golgi impregnation of substantia nigra neurons was good in all control cases. In full agreement with the analysis of Braak and Braak (1986) three neuronal types within the substantia nigra were found. In cases of Parkinson's disease, severe pathological changes such as decrease of dendritic length, loss of dendritic spines and several types of dendritic varicosities were found only in the melanin-containing pars compacta neurons. Pars reticulata nerve cells were intact. These findings support the predominant role played by the dopaminergic efferent pathway in the degenerative process. The afferent pathway was not affected. This suggests that the substantia nigra lesion is primary in Parkinson's disease. Loss of neurons found in H & E sections corresponded to a lesser amount of impregnated pars compacta neurons in cases with Parkinson's disease when compared to controls. Evidences exist that the duration of the disease may be related to the extent of pathologically altered Golgi-impregnated pars compacta cells. The amount of Lewy bodies in H & E sections corresponded to the quantity of round varicosities in impregnated pars compacta neurons. These round dendritic varicosities were considered to be Lewy body inclusions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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