• neurotoxicity;
  • substantia nigra;
  • cell cultures;
  • MPTP;
  • Parkinson's disease


Toxicity of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) and dopamine were studied in cultures of dissociated fetal rat mesencephalic cells. To assess survival and function of dopaminergic cells we quantified the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive cells and measured dopamine uptake. Non-dopaminergic cells were monitored by counting the number of cells visible with phase-contrast microscopy and measuring GABA uptake. 6-OHDA, in contrast to MPP +, which selectively destroyed dopaminergic neurons, was found to be a non-selective neurotoxin in this culture system. Between 10 and 100 μM, dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic cells were destroyed. At concentrations frequently used to lesion catecholaminergic neurons in vivo, 6-OHDA resulted in structural fixation and loss of viability of dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic cells. Dopamine produced the same actions at slightly higher concentrations. One hundred to 300 μM was toxic for all cell types, and concentrations above 300 μM resulted in fixation. The findings suggest that 6-OHDA cannot be considered a selective toxin for catecholaminergic neurons in vitro. The demonstrated toxicity of dopamine tends to support speculations that processes related to dopamine metabolism may play a role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease.