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Neurodegeneration. 1995 Sep;4(3):257-69.

Time course and morphology of dopaminergic neuronal death caused by the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine.

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Department of Neurology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Mechanisms responsible for 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced dopamine (DA) neuronal death remain unknown and in mice it is even unclear whether neuronal death does occur. In vitro studies suggest that 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion (MPP+), the active metabolite of MPTP, kills neurons by apoptosis. Herein, we investigated whether MPTP induces DA neuronal death in vivo in mice and whether the mechanism is that of apoptosis. C57/bl Mice received different doses of MPTP administered in four intraperitoneal injections every 2 hours and were sacrificed at different time points for analyses of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunohistochemistry, silver staining, and Nissl staining within the mesencephalon. We found that MPTP induces neuronal destruction in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The active phase of degeneration began at 12 h postinjection and continued up to 4 days. During this period, there was a greater decrease in TH-defined neurons than in Nissl-stained neurons suggesting that MPTP can cause a loss in TH without necessarily destroying the neuron. Thereafter, neuronal counts by both techniques equalized and there was no further loss of DA neurons. Dying neurons showed shrunken eosinophilic cytoplasm and shrunken darkly stained nuclei. Double staining revealed degenerating neurons solely among TH positive neurons of SNpc and VTA. At no time point and at no dose of MPTP was apoptosis observed. In addition, in situ labelling revealed no evidence of DNA fragmentation. This study demonstrates that the MPTP mouse model replicates several key features of neurodegeneration of DA neurons in PD and provides no in vivo evidence that, using this specific paradigm of injection, MPTP kills DA neurons by apoptosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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