Send to

Choose Destination
Neuroscience. 1996 May;72(2):355-63.

Nitric oxide synthase and neuronal vulnerability in Parkinson's disease.

Author information

INSERM U289, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris, France.


Parkinson's disease is characterized by a loss of dopaminergic neurons in the mesencephalon. Although the mechanism of this neuronal loss is still unknown, oxidative stress is very likely involved in the cascade of events leading to nerve cell death. Since nitric oxide could be involved in the production of free radicals, we analysed, using immunohistochemistry and histochemistry, the production systems of nitric oxide in the mesencephalon of four patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease and three matched control subjects. Using specific antibodies directed against the inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase (the enzyme involved in the synthesis of nitric oxide), we found evidence to suggest that this isoform was present solely in glial cells displaying the morphological characteristics of activated macrophages. Immunohistochemical analysis performed with antibodies against the neuronal isoform of nitric oxide synthase, however, revealed perikarya and processes of neurons but no glial cell staining. The number of nitric oxide synthase-containing cells was investigated by histoenzymology, using the NADPH-diaphorase activity of nitric oxide synthase. Histochemistry revealed (i) a significant increase in NADPH-diaphorase-positive glial cell density in the dopaminergic cell groups characterized by neuronal loss in Parkinson's disease and (ii) a neuronal loss in Parkinson's disease that was two-fold greater for pigmented NADPH-diaphorase-negative neurons than for pigmented NADPH-diaphorase-positive neurons. These data suggest a potentially deleterious role of glial cells producing excessive levels of nitric oxide in Parkinson's disease, which may be neurotoxic for a subpopulation of dopaminergic neurons, especially those not expressing NADPH-diaphorase activity. However, it cannot be excluded that the presence of glial cells expressing nitric oxide synthase in the substantia nigra of patients with Parkinson's disease represents a consequence of dopaminergic neuronal loss.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center