Melanized nigral neuronal numbers in Nigerian and British individuals



The role of genetic and environmental factors in etiopathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD) is debated. The prevalence of PD is higher among white than nonwhite populations, yet it is five times higher in nonwhites living in the United States than in Nigeria. We compare counts of melanized nigral neurons between neurologically normal Nigerians and British brains. Neuronal counts were estimated in an age-matched sample of 23 Nigerian and 7 British brains from neurologically normal individuals who had no Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites on α-synuclein immunostaining. Two investigators blind to age and ethnicity performed counts of melanized neurons in a single 7-μm hemisections showing the substantia nigra pars compacta. No significant difference exits in the number of neurons between the Nigerian and the British subjects (P = 0.1, NS). Differences in melanized nigral neuronal numbers may not explain differences in the prevalence of PD between white and nonwhite populations, suggesting factors other than neuronal numbers contribute to differential susceptibility of black vs. white races to PD. © 2006 Movement Disorder Society