, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 171-182

MPTP Susceptibility in the Mouse: Behavioral, Neurochemical, and Histological Analysis of Gender and Strain Differences

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To investigate the impact of strain and sex in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) animal model of Parkinson's disease, C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice were treated with either systemic MPTP-HCl (4 × 15 mg/kg) or saline and were examined in a number of behavioral tests. Furthermore, neostriatal and ventral striatal monoamine contents were determined, and the numbers of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunostained cells were counted in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area. Open-field testing showed that locomotor activity was drastically reduced as an acute effect of MPTP in both strains; however, subsequent recovery to control levels was faster in BALB/c mice than in C57BL/6. Nest building also indicated strain-dependent effects, since it was delayed only in C57BL/6 mice treated with MPTP. The other tests (grip test, pole test, rotarod, elevated plus-maze), although partly sensitive for overall strain or gender differences, turned out not to be useful to compare MPTP effects in these two strains. Neurochemically, MPTP led to more severe neostriatal dopamine depletions in C57BL/6 (−85%) than in BALB/c mice (−58%). Histologically, a loss of tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity (−25%) was observed only in the substantia nigra of C57BL/6 animals. Thus, our analysis consistently showed that the C57BL/6 mouse strain is more susceptible to MPTP than the BALB/c strain. Sex differences in MPTP sensitivity were not observed in our mice. The implications of these findings for the search for genes related to susceptibility to neurodegeneration are discussed.