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Nature. 1987 May 28-Jun 3;327(6120):324-6.

Evidence for neuromelanin involvement in MPTP-induced neurotoxicity.


Exposure to 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) reproduces certain clinical, pathological, and neurochemical features of Parkinson's disease. MPTP is metabolized by monoamine oxidase Type B to 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridine (MPP+), which is selectively accumulated by high-affinity uptake mechanisms into dopaminergic neurons. Lyden et al. described low-affinity binding of MPTP to synthetic and retinal melanin. We showed that MPP+ binds to neuromelanin with high affinity, suggesting that in MPTP neurotoxicity, MPP+ enters nigral neurons by the dopamine uptake system and binds to neuromelanin, which serves as a depot, continuously releasing MPP+ until it destroys the cells. This model predicts that agents which compete with MPP+ binding to neuromelanin should partially protect the dopamine neurons from MPTP-induced toxicity. The most potent identified competitor for MPP+ binding to melanin is the antimalarial drug chloroquine, which has a high affinity for melanins. In the present study, chloroquine, administered to monkeys in conventional anti-malarial doses before MPTP, protects them from MPTP-induced parkinsonian motor abnormalities, dopamine depletion in the striatum, and neuropathological changes in the substantia nigra.

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