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J Neurochem. 1997 Oct;69(4):1398-408.

Neurotrophic effects of L-DOPA in postnatal midbrain dopamine neuron/cortical astrocyte cocultures.

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Department of Neurology, Columbia University, New York, New York, U.S.A.


L-DOPA is toxic to catecholamine neurons in culture, but the toxicity is reduced by exposure to astrocytes. We tested the effect of L-DOPA on dopamine neurons using postnatal ventral midbrain neuron/cortical astrocyte cocultures in serum-free, glia-conditioned medium. L-DOPA (50 microM) protected against dopamine neuronal cell death and increased the number and branching of dopamine processes. In contrast to embryonically derived glia-free cultures, where L-DOPA is toxic, postnatal midbrain cultures did not show toxicity at 200 microM L-DOPA. The stereoisomer D-DOPA (50-400 microM) was not neurotrophic. The aromatic amino acid decarboxylase inhibitor carbidopa (25 microM) did not block the neurotrophic effect. These data suggest that the neurotrophic effect of L-DOPA is stereospecific but independent of the production of dopamine. However, L-DOPA increased the level of glutathione. Inhibition of glutathione peroxidase by L-buthionine sulfoximine (3 microM for 24 h) blocked the neurotrophic action of L-DOPA. N-Acetyl-L-cysteine (250 microM for 48 h), which promotes glutathione synthesis, had a neurotrophic effect similar to that of L-DOPA. These data suggest that the neurotrophic effect of L-DOPA may be mediated, at least in part, by elevation of glutathione content.

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