, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 63-72
Date: 03 Dec 2009

Neuromelanin Activates Microglia and Induces Degeneration of Dopaminergic Neurons: Implications for Progression of Parkinson’s Disease

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In Parkinson’s disease (PD), there is a progressive loss of neuromelanin (NM)-containing dopamine neurons in substantia nigra (SN) which is associated with microgliosis and presence of extracellular NM. Herein, we have investigated the interplay between microglia and human NM on the degeneration of SN dopaminergic neurons. Although NM particles are phagocytized and degraded by microglia within minutes in vitro, extracellular NM particles induce microglial activation and ensuing production of superoxide, nitric oxide, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and pro-inflammatory factors. Furthermore, NM produces, in a microglia-depended manner, neurodegeneration in primary ventral midbrain cultures. Neurodegeneration was effectively attenuated with microglia derived from mice deficient in macrophage antigen complex-1, a microglial integrin receptor involved in the initiation of phagocytosis. Neuronal loss was also attenuated with microglia derived from mice deficient in phagocytic oxidase, a subunit of NADPH oxidase, that is responsible for superoxide and H2O2 production, or apocynin, an NADPH oxidase inhibitor. In vivo, NM injected into rat SN produces microgliosis and a loss of tyrosine hydroxylase neurons. Thus, these results show that extracellular NM can activate microglia, which in turn may induce dopaminergic neurodegeneration in PD. Our study may have far-reaching implications, both pathogenic and therapeutic.