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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47950. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047950. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

ATF6alpha promotes astroglial activation and neuronal survival in a chronic mouse model of Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Neuroanatomy, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan.


Accumulating evidence suggests a crucial role for the unfolded protein response (UPR) in Parkinson's disease (PD). In this study, we investigated the relevance of the UPR in a mouse model of chronic MPTP/probenecid (MPTP/P) injection, which causes severe and persistent degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Enhanced activation of the UPR branches, including ATF6α and PERK/eIF2α/ATF4, was observed after MPTP/P injections into mice. Deletion of the ATF6α gene accelerated neuronal degeneration and ubiquitin accumulation relatively early in the MPTP/P injection course. Surprisingly, astroglial activation was strongly suppressed, and production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and anti-oxidative genes, such as heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and xCT, in astrocytes were reduced in ATF6α -/- mice after MPTP/P injections. Decreased BDNF expression in ATF6α -/- mice was associated with decreased expression of GRP78, an ATF6α-dependent molecular chaperone in the ER. Decreased HO-1 and xCT levels were associated with decreased expression of the ATF4-dependent pro-apoptotic gene CHOP. Consistent with these results, administration of the UPR-activating reagent tangeretin (5,6,7,8,4'-pentamethoxyflavone; IN19) into mice enhanced the expression of UPR-target genes in both dopaminergic neurons and astrocytes, and promoted neuronal survival after MPTP/P injections. These results suggest that the UPR is activated in a mouse model of chronic MPTP/P injection, and contributes to the survival of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons, in part, through activated astrocytes.

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