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Neuroscience. 1993 Dec;57(4):931-41.

Chronic nicotine treatment counteracts nigral cell loss induced by a partial mesodiencephalic hemitransection: an analysis of the total number and mean volume of neurons and glia in substantia nigra of the male rat.

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Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


This study combines immunocytochemical and stereological methods for the first time to obtain unbiased estimates of the number of cells in the entire substantia nigra and their respective mean volume. Nicotine, delivered by subcutaneously implanted osmotic pumps (0.125 mg/kg/h, 14 days) to male Sprague-Dawley rats with a partial unilateral mesodiencephalic lesion, caused a significant counteraction of the lesion-induced reduction in total number of nigral tyrosine hydroxylase-like immunoreactive neurons counterstained with Cresyl Violet compared with saline treated control animals. The number of Nissl stained neurons without tyrosine hydroxylase-like immunoreactivity was not affected by the lesion nor by nicotine. The numbers of non-neuronal glial fibrillary acidic protein-like immunoreactive cells counterstained with Cresyl Violet and smaller cells seen after Cresyl Violet staining alone, possibly representing microglia, were increased by the lesion but not affected by nicotine. No nicotine-induced effects were found on the number of nigral cells located contralateral to the lesion. The lesion-induced reduction in the mean volume of the nigral cells showing tyrosine hydroxylase-like immunoreactivity, as determined with the stereological rotator method, was not affected by nicotine. These findings suggest that continuous nicotine infusion exerts protective effects on lesioned nigroneostriatal dopamine systems and that these protective effects are selective for the nigral dopamine neurons not affecting other populations of neurons or non-neuronal cells. This neuroprotective effect might lead to new therapeutic strategies in clinical neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's Disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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