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Ann Neurol. 2011 Mar;69(3):509-20. doi: 10.1002/ana.22162. Epub 2010 Nov 23.

N-acetylcysteine prevents loss of dopaminergic neurons in the EAAC1-/- mouse.

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Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, USA.



Dopaminergic neuronal death in Parkinson's disease (PD) is accompanied by oxidative stress and preceded by glutathione depletion. The development of disease-modifying therapies for PD has been hindered by a paucity of animal models that mimic these features and demonstrate an age-related progression. The EAAC1(-/-) mouse may be useful in this regard, because EAAC1(-/-) mouse neurons have impaired neuronal cysteine uptake, resulting in reduced neuronal glutathione content and chronic oxidative stress. Here we aimed to (1) characterize the age-related changes in nigral dopaminergic neurons in the EAAC1(-/-) mouse, and (2) use the EAAC1(-/-) mouse to evaluate N-acetylcysteine, a membrane-permeable cysteine pro-drug, as a potential disease-modifying intervention for PD.


Wild-type mice, EAAC1(-/-) mice, and EAAC1(-/-) mice chronically treated with N-acetylcysteine were evaluated at serial time points for evidence of oxidative stress, dopaminergic cell death, and motor abnormalities.


EAAC1(-/-) mice showed age-dependent loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, with more than 40% of these neurons lost by age 12 months. This neuronal loss was accompanied by increased nitrotyrosine formation, nitrosylated α-synuclein, and microglial activation. These changes were substantially reduced in mice that received N-acetylcysteine.


These findings suggest that the EAAC1(-/-) mouse may be a useful model of the chronic neuronal oxidative stress that occurs in PD. The salutary effects of N-acetylcysteine in this mouse model provide an impetus for clinical evaluation of glutathione repletion in PD.

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