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J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 23;31(12):4524-34. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5817-10.2011.

Intrinsic bioenergetic properties and stress sensitivity of dopaminergic synaptosomes.

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Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Novato, California 94945, USA.


Dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta are defective in Parkinson's disease, but the specificity of this dysfunction is not understood. One hypothesis is that mitochondrial bioenergetic capacity is intrinsically lower in striatal dopaminergic presynaptic nerve varicosities, making them unusually susceptible to inhibition of electron transport by oxidative damage. To test this hypothesis, we separated isolated synaptosomes bearing dopamine transporters using immunomagnetic beads and compared their respiration with that of the residual nondopaminergic synaptosomes. As predicted, dopaminergic synaptosomes from striatum had lower respiratory rates. However, so did dopaminergic synaptosomes from cortex, indicating a lack of the predicted striatal specificity. We used fluorescent probes to analyze the bioenergetic competence of individual synaptosomes in the two fractions. The respiratory differences became nonsignificant when respiration rates were normalized to the number of respiration-competent synaptosomes, suggesting that differences reflected the quality of the different fractions. To circumvent damage induced by synaptosomal separation, we monitored membrane potentials in whole unseparated single synaptosomes using fluorescent imaging, and then identified the dopaminergic subpopulation using a fluorescent dopamine transporter substrate (ASP(+) [4-(4-diethylaminostyryl)-N-methylpyridinium iodide]). The capacity of dopaminergic and nondopaminergic synaptosomes to maintain plasma membrane and mitochondrial membrane potential under several stresses did not differ. In addition, this capacity did not decline in either subpopulation with age, a risk factor for Parkinson's disease. We conclude that the intrinsic bioenergetic capacities of dopaminergic and nondopaminergic presynaptic synaptosomes from mice do not differ.

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