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J Neurochem. 1993 Jan;60(1):356-9.

Age-dependent vulnerability of the striatum to the mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid.

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Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


The mechanisms of delayed onset and cell death in Huntington's disease (HD) are unknown. One possibility is that a genetic defect in energy metabolism may result in slow excitotoxic neuronal death. Therefore, we examined the effects of age on striatal lesions produced by local administration of the mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid in rats. In vivo chemical shift magnetic resonance imaging showed marked increases in striatal lactate concentrations that significantly correlated with increasing age. Histologic and neurochemical studies showed a striking age dependence of the lesions, with 4- and 12-month-old animals being much more susceptible than 1-month-old animals. Continuous systemic administration of low doses of 3-nitropropionic acid for 1 month resulted in striatal lesions showing growth-related changes in dendrites of striatal spiny neurons using the Golgi technique. These results show that a known mitochondrial toxin can produce selective axon-sparing striatal lesions showing both the age dependence and striatal spiny neuron dendritic changes that characterize HD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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