Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 259-270

First online:

The vigilance-promoting drug modafinil counteracts the reduction of tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity and of dopamine stores in nigrostriatal dopamine neurons in the male rat after a partial transection of the dopamine pathway

  • A. UekiAffiliated withDepartment of Histology and Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • , L. RosénAffiliated withDepartment of Histology and Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • , B. AndbjerAffiliated withDepartment of Histology and Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • , U. B. FinnmanAffiliated withDepartment of Histology and Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • , U. AltamimiAffiliated withDepartment of Histology and Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • , A. M. JansonAffiliated withDepartment of Histology and Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • , M. GoldsteinAffiliated withNew York University, School of Medicine, Medical Center
  • , L. F. AgnatiAffiliated withDepartment of Human Physiology, University of Modena
  • , K. FuxeAffiliated withDepartment of Histology and Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet

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We studied the ability of the vigilance-promoting drug modafinil to modulate the anterograde and retrograde changes in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunoreactivity and in dopamine (DA) stores in the nigro-neostriatal DA neurons, following a partial hemitransection of this ascending DA system, using a combined morphometrical, biochemical and behavioural analysis. Modafinil was given daily i.p. in doses of 10–100 mg/kg, starting 15 min after the lesion, and the partially hemitransected rats were killed 2 weeks later. Changes in TH-immunoreactive nerve cell bodies and nerve terminals induced by the partial hemitransection were studied in the substantia nigra and neostriatum in combination with image analysis. The substantia nigra and neostriatum were also subjected to biochemical analysis of DA, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and homovanillic acid levels. Modafinil treatment dose-dependently (10–100 mg/kg) counteracted the hemitransection-induced disappearance of nigral TH-immunoreactive nerve cell body profiles and neostriatal TH-immunoreactive nerve terminal profiles. A 2-week treatment with 100 mg/kg of modafinil also counteracted the hemitransection-induced depletion of DA stores in the neostriatum and the ventral midbrain. Moreover, the repeated daily treatment with modafinil (100 mg/kg) protected against the hemitransection-induced disappearance of striatal 5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid and noradrenaline levels. Striatal DA function was analysed by studying apomorphine-induced (1 mg/kg, s.c.) ipsilateral rotational behaviour 4 and 11 days after the operation. A marked dose-dependent reduction of ipsilateral rotational behaviour was demonstrated after the daily modafinil treatment in the partially hemitransected rats. In another model involving unilateral nigral microinjections of 6-hydroxydopamine, acute (one single dose) modafinil (100 mg/kg) did not affect the contralateral rotational behaviour induced by apomorphine (0.05 mg/kg s.c.), when given 30 min before the apomorphine. Taken together, morphological, neurochemical and behavioural evidence has been obtained that anterograde and retrograde changes induced in the DA stores and TH immunoreactivity of the nigro-neostriatal DA neurons by a partial hemitransection are counteracted by modafinil in a dose dependent way with 100 mg/kg producing a significant protective action against impairment of DA transmission. The results of this study open up the possibility that modafinil may protect against the anterograde and retrograde degeneration of nigrostriatal DA neurons seen after mechanically induced injury.

Key words

Dopamine Substantia nigra Striatum Hemitransection Rat