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Concept: Substantia nigra


Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by resting tremor, slowness of movements, rigidity, gait disturbance and postural instability. Most investigations on Parkinson’s disease focused on the basal ganglia, whereas the cerebellum has often been overlooked. However, increasing evidence suggests that the cerebellum may have certain roles in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. Anatomical studies identified reciprocal connections between the basal ganglia and cerebellum. There are Parkinson’s disease-related pathological changes in the cerebellum. Functional or morphological modulations in the cerebellum were detected related to akinesia/rigidity, tremor, gait disturbance, dyskinesia and some non-motor symptoms. It is likely that the major roles of the cerebellum in Parkinson’s disease include pathological and compensatory effects. Pathological changes in the cerebellum might be induced by dopaminergic degeneration, abnormal drives from the basal ganglia and dopaminergic treatment, and may account for some clinical symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. The compensatory effect may help maintain better motor and non-motor functions. The cerebellum is also a potential target for some parkinsonian symptoms. Our knowledge about the roles of the cerebellum in Parkinson’s disease remains limited, and further attention to the cerebellum is warranted.

Concepts: Neurology, Parkinson's disease, Deep brain stimulation, Basal ganglia, Substantia nigra, Dopamine, Haloperidol, Tremor


Neuroimaging studies using positron emission tomography suggest that reduced dopamine D(2) receptor availability in the neostriatum is associated with increased vulnerability to drug addiction in humans and experimental animals. The role of D(3) receptors (D(3)Rs) in the neurobiology of addiction remains unclear, however. Here we report that D(3)R KO (D(3)(-/-)) mice display enhanced cocaine self-administration and enhanced motivation for cocaine-taking and cocaine-seeking behavior. This increased vulnerability to cocaine is accompanied by decreased dopamine response to cocaine secondary to increased basal levels of extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, suggesting a compensatory response to decreased cocaine reward in D(3)(-/-) mice. In addition, D(3)(-/-) mice also display up-regulation of dopamine transporters in the striatum, suggesting a neuroadaptative attempt to normalize elevated basal extracellular dopamine. These findings suggest that D(3)R deletion increases vulnerability to cocaine, and that reduced D(3)R availability in the brain may constitute a risk factor for the development of cocaine addiction.

Concepts: Ventral tegmental area, Positron emission tomography, Substantia nigra, Drug addiction, Dopamine, Nucleus accumbens, Putamen, Cocaine


Beyond the cardinal motor symptoms, bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor and postural instability, defining the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, there is a big spectrum of non-motor features that patients may suffer from and that may reduce their quality of life. Non-motor symptoms are not only frequent but also often under-reported by patients and caregivers. As they are frequently under-recognized by clinicians, they remain consequently under-treated. This review wants to give a short overview of the importance of non-motor symptoms on patients' quality of life and helpful assessment tools that might facilitate recognition of non-motor features during clinical setting. Given the wide range of non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, we concentrate on common issues such as depression and sleep disorders like sleep-onset insomnia or sleep maintenance insomnia and restless legs syndrome. Thereby, we present some recent studies that have investigated the efficacy of dopaminergic drugs, especially dopamine agonists, revealing possible treatment strategies and thus improving disease management.

Concepts: Parkinson's disease, Substantia nigra, Dopamine, Haloperidol, Pramipexole, Ropinirole, Restless legs syndrome, Dopamine agonist


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the most epidemic neurodegenerative diseases, and is characterized by movement disorders arising from loss of midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Recently, the relationship between PD and autophagy has received considerable attention, but information about the mechanisms involved is lacking. Here, we report that autophagy-related gene 5 (ATG5) is potentially important in protecting dopaminergic neurons in a 1-methyl-4phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced PD model in zebrafish. Using analyses of zebarfish swimming behavior, in situ hybridizatiton, immunofluorescence and expressions of genes and proteins related to PD and autophagy, we found that ATG5 expression level was decreased and autophagy flux was blocked in this model. The ATG5 down-regulation led to the upgrade of PDassociated proteins, such as β-synuclein, Parkin, and PINK1, aggravation of MPTP-induced PDmimicking pathological locomotor behavior, DA neuron loss labelled by tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) or dopamine transporter (DAT), and blocked autophagy flux in the zebrafish model. ATG5 overexpression alleviated or reversed these PD pathological features, rescued DA neuron cells as indicated by elevated TH /DAT levels, and restored autophagy flux. The role of ATG5 in protecting DA neurons was confirmed by expression of the human atg5 gene in the zebrafish model. Our findings reveal that ATG5 has a role in neuroprotection, and upregulation of ATG5 may serve as a goal in the development of drugs for PD prevention and management.

Concepts: Neuron, Gene, Gene expression, Parkinson's disease, Substantia nigra, Neurotransmitter, Dopamine, Alpha-synuclein


Recent reports have indicated human embryonic stem cells-derived midbrain dopamine (mDA) neurons as proper cell resources for use in Parkinson’s disease (PD) therapy. Nevertheless, no detailed and systematic study has been conducted to identify which differentiation stages of mDA cells are most suitable for transplantation in PD therapy. Here, we transplanted three types of mDA cells, DA progenitors (differentiated in vitro for 16 days [D16]), immature DA neurons (D25), and DA neurons (D35), into PD mice and found that all three types of cells showed high viability and strong neuronal differentiation in vivo. Both D25 and D35 cells showed neuronal maturation and differentiation toward TH(+) cells and, accordingly, satisfactory behavioral functional recovery. However, transplanted D16 cells were less capable of producing functional recovery. These findings provide a valuable guideline for standardizing the differentiation stage of the transplantable cells used in clinical cell therapy for PD. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2017.

Concepts: Neuron, Stem cell, Cellular differentiation, Parkinson's disease, Embryonic stem cell, Substantia nigra, Neurotransmitter, Dopamine


This study provides a demonstration in the rat of a clear genetic difference in the propensity for addiction-related behaviors following prolonged cocaine self-administration. It relies on the use of selectively bred high-responder (bHR) and low-responder (bLR) rat lines that differ in several characteristics associated with “temperament,” including novelty-induced locomotion and impulsivity. We show that bHR rats exhibit behaviors reminiscent of human addiction, including persistent cocaine-seeking and increased reinstatement of cocaine seeking. To uncover potential underlying mechanisms of this differential vulnerability, we focused on the core of the nucleus accumbens and examined expression and epigenetic regulation of two transcripts previously implicated in bHR/bLR differences: fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) and the dopamine D2 receptor (D2). Relative to bHRs, bLRs had lower FGF2 mRNA levels and increased association of a repressive mark on histones (H3K9me3) at the FGF2 promoter. These differences were apparent under basal conditions and persisted even following prolonged cocaine self-administration. In contrast, bHRs had lower D2 mRNA under basal conditions, with greater association of H3K9me3 at the D2 promoter and these differences were no longer apparent following prolonged cocaine self-administration. Correlational analyses indicate that the association of H3K9me3 at D2 may be a critical substrate underlying the propensity to relapse. These findings suggest that low D2 mRNA levels in the nucleus accumbens core, likely mediated via epigenetic modifications, may render individuals more susceptible to cocaine addiction. In contrast, low FGF2 levels, which appear immutable even following prolonged cocaine exposure, may serve as a protective factor.

Concepts: DNA, Ventral tegmental area, Gene expression, Basal ganglia, Substantia nigra, Dopamine, Nucleus accumbens, Cocaine


Sleep control is ascribed to a two-process model, a widely accepted concept that posits homoeostatic drive and a circadian process as the major sleep-regulating factors. Cognitive and emotional factors also influence sleep-wake behaviour; however, the precise circuit mechanisms underlying their effects on sleep control are unknown. Previous studies suggest that adenosine has a role affecting behavioural arousal in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain area critical for reinforcement and reward. Here, we show that chemogenetic or optogenetic activation of excitatory adenosine A2A receptor-expressing indirect pathway neurons in the core region of the NAc strongly induces slow-wave sleep. Chemogenetic inhibition of the NAc indirect pathway neurons prevents the sleep induction, but does not affect the homoeostatic sleep rebound. In addition, motivational stimuli inhibit the activity of ventral pallidum-projecting NAc indirect pathway neurons and suppress sleep. Our findings reveal a prominent contribution of this indirect pathway to sleep control associated with motivation.In addition to circadian and homoeostatic drives, motivational levels influence sleep-wake cycles. Here the authors demonstrate that adenosine receptor-expressing neurons in the nucleus accumbens core that project to the ventral pallidum are inhibited by motivational stimuli and are causally involved in the control of slow-wave sleep.

Concepts: Ventral tegmental area, Basal ganglia, Substantia nigra, Globus pallidus, Striatum, Dopamine, Mesolimbic pathway, Nucleus accumbens


It has been proposed that the acquisition of drug seeking is related to the development of conditioned dopamine responses in the ventral striatum. As drug use continues and becomes habit-like, conditioned responses have been shown to shift to the dorsal striatum. Here, using the PET [(11)C]raclopride method and highly personalized cocaine cues, we report the first evidence in humans of the dorsal dopamine response prior to the onset of addiction.

Concepts: Ventral tegmental area, Nicotine, Parkinson's disease, Substantia nigra, Drug addiction, Striatum, Dopamine, Nucleus accumbens


The purpose of this study was to assess the biological and clinical effects of n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) in Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Stem cell, Cell biology, Parkinson's disease, Substantia nigra, Neurotransmitter, Dopamine, Acetylcysteine


Excessive alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for stroke, but the effect of stroke on alcohol intake is unknown. The dorsomedial striatum (DMS) and midbrain areas of the nigrostriatal circuit are critically associated to stroke and alcohol addiction. Here we sought to explore the influence of stroke on alcohol consumption and to uncover the underlying nigrostriatal mechanism. Rats were trained to consume alcohol using a two-bottle choice or operant self-administration procedure. Retrograde beads were infused into the DMS or midbrain to label specific neuronal types, and ischemic stroke was induced in the dorsolateral striatum (DLS). Slice electrophysiology was employed to measure excitability and synaptic transmission in DMS and midbrain neurons. We found that ischemic stroke-induced DLS infarction produced significant increases in alcohol preference, operant self-administration, and relapse. These increases were accompanied by enhanced excitability of DMS and midbrain neurons. In addition, glutamatergic inputs onto DMS D1-neurons was potentiated, whereas GABAergic inputs onto DMS-projecting midbrain dopaminergic neurons was suppressed. Importantly, systemic inhibition of dopamine D1 receptors attenuated the stroke-induced increase in operant alcohol self-administration. Our results suggest that the stroke-induced DLS infarction evoked abnormal plasticity in nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons and DMS D1-neurons, contributing to increased post-stroke alcohol-seeking and relapse.

Concepts: Nervous system, Stroke, Alcoholism, Substantia nigra, Drug addiction, Addiction, Dopamine, Alcoholic beverage