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Brain Res. 1995 Jun 5;682(1-2):133-43.

Toxic effects of L-DOPA on mesencephalic cell cultures: protection with antioxidants.

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Departamento de Investigación, Hospital Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, Spain.


The toxicity of L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) was studied in neuronal cultures from rat mesencephalon. The survival and function of DA neurons were assessed by the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) cells and 3H-DA uptake and those non-DA neurons by the exclusion of Trypan blue and the high-affinity 3H-GABA uptake. L-DOPA was toxic for both DA and non-DA neurons. DA neurons were more severely affected than non-DA neurons after short periods of treatment and with exposure to a low dose of L-DOPA (25 vs. 100 microM) and less selectively affected after 1 or 2 days of treatment. After incubation with L-DOPA, a disruption of the neuritic network and an overall deterioration were observed, more evident for TH+ cells in the whole culture. Auto-oxidation to quinones is responsible in part for L-DOPA toxicity in non-DA neurons since the levels of quinones correlated well with the severity of cell death in the cultures. The damage of DA neurons took place before the rising of quinones, suggesting that quinones are not essential in L-DOPA toxicity for DA neurons. Antioxidants, such as ascorbic acid and sodium metabisulfite, completely prevented L-DOPA-induced quinone formation as well as the death of non-DA neurons. In contrast, they could only partially prevent the damage produced by L-DOPA in DA neurons. Mazindol, a selective inhibitor of DA uptake, protected TH+ cells from L-DOPA.

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