Chronic low-dose melatonin treatment maintains nigrostriatal integrity in an intrastriatal rotenone model of Parkinson’s disease
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Parkinson's disease is a major neurodegenerative disorder which primarily involves the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and related projections in the striatum. The pesticide/neurotoxin, rotenone, has been shown to cause systemic inhibition of mitochondrial complex I activity in nigral dopaminergic neurons, with consequent degeneration of the nigrostriatal pathway, as observed in Parkinson's disease. A novel intrastriatal rotenone model of Parkinson's disease was used to examine the neuroprotective effects of chronic low-dose treatment with the antioxidant indoleamine, melatonin, which can upregulate neurotrophic factors and other protective proteins in the brain. Sham or lesioned rats were treated with either vehicle (0.04% ethanol in drinking water) or melatonin at a dose of 4 µg/mL in drinking water. The right striatum was lesioned by stereotactic injection of rotenone at three sites (4 μg/site) along its rostrocaudal axis. Apomorphine administration to lesioned animals resulted in a significant (p<0.001) increase in ipsilateral rotations, which was suppressed by melatonin. Nine weeks post-surgery, animals were sacrificed by transcardial perfusion. Subsequent immunohistochemical examination revealed a decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity within the striatum and substantia nigra of rotenone-lesioned animals. Melatonin treatment attenuated the decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase in the striatum and abolished it in the substantia nigra. Stereological cell counts indicated a significant (p<0.05) decrease in dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra of rotenone-lesioned animals, which was confirmed by Nissl staining. Importantly, chronic melatonin treatment blocked the loss of dopamine neurons in rotenone-lesioned animals. These findings strongly support the therapeutic potential of long-term and low-dose melatonin treatment in Parkinson's disease.
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