Dopaminergic fiber protection and regeneration by Wlds protein and GDNF in rodent models of Parkinson disease

Parkinson disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. The resulting failure of the nigrostriatal pathway leads to profound dopamine deficiency, causing bradykinesia, tremor, rigidity and postural imbalance. The current therapeutic options for this disabling disorder remain symptomatic and are devoid of any impact on the neurodegeneration process per se. The development of neuroprotective and regenerative strategies constitute therefore an important challenge, in order to halt and possibly reverse the loss of the nigrostriatal pathway in PD. In the present study, we have investigated two different approaches to protect or restore the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system in rodent models of PD. In the first part, we examined the potential of a spontaneous dominant mutation in mice called slow Wallerian degeneration (Wlds) to confer protection of the dopaminergic pathway against the catecholaminergic toxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA). Interestingly, the Wlds fusion protein proved capable to provide functional preservation of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic terminals. The observed Wlds-mediated protection of dopaminergic axons might help to further elucidate the mechanisms leading to the loss of dopamine axons in PD and conduct to the development of new therapeutic modalities for this disorder. In the second approach, we assessed the protective and regenerative potential of the neurotrophic factor glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) delivered via capsules in a rat model of PD. GDNF delivery by encapsulated cells resulted in regeneration of dopaminergic fibers and behavioral improvement in a bilateral 6-OHDA model in the rat. Importantly, GDNF withdrawal did not affect the morphological and behavioral effects in our model. The sustainability of the striatal dopaminergic reinnervation and behavioral performances following GDNF washout has important implications. It suggests that GDNF needs to be delivered only transiently to allow prolonged functional regenerative effect, rendering the retrievable capsules attractive to achieve this purpose in PD patients. The promising potential of GDNF to protect and regenerate the nigrostriatal pathway has been hampered by several recent studies showing that long-term GDNF overexpression in the intact nigrostriatal pathway induces a downregulation of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate-limiting enzyme in the synthesis of dopamine. In the last part of this work, we aimed therefore at investigating the effect of GDNF on other enzymes of dopamine biosynthesis, using a lentiviral vector-mediated gene transfer technique, in order to overexpress GDNF in rat striatum. We showed that in addition to TH downregulation, long-term GDNF overexpression results in tetrahydrobiopterin upregulation, and importantly in dopamine decrease in the intact striatum of rats. In a clinical perspective, dose and treatment duration of the trophic factor will thus have to be established and optimized with the aim of achieving beneficial neuroprotective effects while circumventing undesirable pharmacologic effects on dopamine biosynthesis. The discovery of new protective molecules such as the Wlds protein, as well as a better understanding of cellular effects of the promising neurotrophic factor GDNF might lead to the establishment of neuroprotective and neuroregenerative strategies for PD in the close future.

Aebischer, Patrick
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis3265-8

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2005-05-18, last modified 2018-01-27

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