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Keywords:

  • Parkinson's;
  • dopamine neurons;
  • energy;
  • neurodegeneration

Abstract

Although genes, protein aggregates, environmental toxins, and other factors associated with Parkinson's disease (PD) are widely distributed in the nervous system and affect many classes of neurons, a consistent feature of PD is the exceptional and selective vulnerability of dopamine (DA) neurons of the SNc. What is it about these neurons, among all other neurons in the brain, that makes them so susceptible in PD? We hypothesize that a major contributory factor is the unique cellular architecture of SNc DA neuron axons. Their large, complex axonal arbour puts them under such a tight energy budget that it makes them particularly susceptible to factors that contribute to cell death, including unique molecular characteristics associated with SNc DA neurons and nonspecific, nervous-system–wide factors. © 2012 Movement Disorder Society