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Neurobiol Dis. 2011 Jul;43(1):152-62. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Mar 13.

GPA protects the nigrostriatal dopamine system by enhancing mitochondrial function.

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Section of Comparative Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Guanidinopropionic acid (GPA) increases AMPK activity, mitochondrial function and biogenesis in muscle and improves physiological function, for example during aging. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a major contributor to the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease. Here we tested whether GPA prevents neurodegeneration of the nigrostriatal dopamine system in MPTP-treated mice. Mice were fed a diet of 1% GPA or normal chow for 4 weeks and then treated with either MPTP or saline. Indices of nigrostriatal function were examined by HPLC, immunohistochemistry, stereology, electron microscopy and mitochondrial respiration. MPTP intoxication decreased TH neurons in the SNpc of normal chow-fed mice; however GPA-fed mice remarkably exhibited no loss of TH neurons in the SNpc. MPTP caused a decrease in striatal dopamine of both normal chow- and GPA-fed mice, although this effect was significantly attenuated in GPA-fed mice. GPA-fed mice showed increased AMPK activity, mitochondrial respiration and mitochondrial number in nigrostriatal TH neurons, suggesting that the neuroprotective effects of GPA involved AMPK-dependent increases in mitochondrial function and biogenesis. MPTP treatment produced a decrease in mitochondrial number and volume in normal chow-fed mice but not GPA-fed mice. Our results show the neuroprotective properties of GPA in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease are partially mediated by AMPK and mitochondrial function. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common problem in neurodegeneration and thus GPA may slow disease progression in other models of neurodegeneration.

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