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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Feb 24;106(8):2933-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0813361106. Epub 2009 Feb 5.

Nrf2-mediated neuroprotection in the MPTP mouse model of Parkinson's disease: Critical role for the astrocyte.

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School of Pharmacy, Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center, Waisman Center, and Center of Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


Oxidative stress has been implicated in the etiology of Parkinson's disease (PD) and in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) animal model of PD. It is known that under conditions of oxidative stress, the transcription factor NF-E2-related factor (Nrf2) binds to antioxidant response element (ARE) to induce antioxidant and phase II detoxification enzymes. To investigate the role of Nrf2 in the process of MPTP-induced toxicity, mice expressing the human placental alkaline phosphatase (hPAP) gene driven by a promoter containing a core ARE sequence (ARE-hPAP) were used. ARE-hPAP mice were injected (30 mg/kg) once per day for 5 days and killed 7 days after the last MPTP injection. In response to this design, ARE-dependent gene expression was decreased in striatum whereas it was increased in substantia nigra. The same MPTP protocol was applied in Nrf2(+/+) and Nrf2(-/-) mice; Nrf2 deficiency increases MPTP sensitivity. Furthermore, we evaluated the potential for astrocytic Nrf2 overexpression to protect from MPTP toxicity. Transgenic mice with Nrf2 under control of the astrocyte-specific promoter for the glial fribillary acidic protein (GFAP-Nrf2) on both a Nrf2(+/+) and Nrf2(-/-) background were administered MPTP. In the latter case, only the astrocytes expressed Nrf2. Independent of background, MPTP-mediated toxicity was abolished in GFAP-Nrf2 mice. These striking results indicate that Nrf2 expression restricted to astrocytes is sufficient to protect against MPTP and astrocytic modulation of the Nrf2-ARE pathway is a promising target for therapeutics aimed at reducing or preventing neuronal death in PD.

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