Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 318, Issue 1, pp 215–224 | Cite as

Classic toxin-induced animal models of Parkinson’s disease: 6-OHDA and MPTP

  • Andreas SchoberEmail author


Neurological disorders in humans can be modeled in animals using standardized procedures that recreate specific pathogenic events and their behavioral outcomes. The development of animal models of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is important to test new neuroprotective agents and strategies. Such animal models of PD have to mimic, at least partially, a Parkinson-like pathology and should reproduce specific features of the human disease. PD is characterized by massive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, the loss of striatal dopaminergic fibers and a dramatic reduction of the striatal dopamine levels. The formation of cytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Lewy bodies) in surviving dopaminergic neurons represents the most important neuropathological feature of PD. Furthermore, the massive striatal dopamine deficiency causes easily detectable motor deficits in PD patients, including bradykinesia, rigidity, and resting tremor, which are the cardinal symptoms of PD. Over the years, a broad variety of experimental models of PD were developed and applied in diverse species. This review focuses on the two most common “classical” toxin-induced PD models, the 6-hydroxy-dopamine (6-OHDA model) and the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) model. Both neurotoxins selectively and rapidly destroy catecholaminergic neurons, whereas in humans the PD pathogenesis follows a progressive course over decades. This discrepancy reflects one important and principal point of weakness related to most animal models. This review discusses the most important properties of 6-OHDA and MPTP, their modes of administration, and critically examines advantages and limitations of selected animal models. The new genetic and environmental toxin models of PD (e.g. rotenone, paraquat, maneb) are discussed elsewhere in this “special issue.”


Parkinson’s disease Animal models MPTP 6-OHDA 



The author thanks Oliver von Bohlen und Halbach (Heidelberg) and Christopher von Bartheld (Reno) for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.


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© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neuroanatomy and IZNUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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