• Dopamine;
  • Carbonyl groups;
  • Protein oxidation;
  • Aging;
  • Parkinson's disease

Abstract: The dopaminergic phenotype of neurons in human substantia nigra deteriorates during normal aging, and loss of these neurons is prominent in Parkinson's disease. These degenerative processes are hypothesized to involve oxidative stress. To compare oxidative stress in the nigra and related regions, we measured carbonyl modifications of soluble proteins in postmortem samples of substantia nigra, basal ganglia, and prefrontal cortex from neurologically normal subjects, using an improved 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine assay. The protein carbonyl content was found to be about twofold higher in substantia nigra pars compacta than in the other regions. To further analyze this oxidative damage, the distribution of carbonyl groups on soluble proteins was determined by western immunoblot analysis. This method revealed that carbonyl content of the major proteins in each region was linearly dependent on molecular weight. This distribution raises the possibility that protein carbonyl content is controlled by a size-dependent mechanism in vivo. Our results suggest that oxidative stress is elevated in human substantia nigra pars compacta in comparison with other regions and that oxidative damage is higher within the dopaminergic neurons. Elevated oxidative damage may contribute to the degeneration of nigral dopaminergic neurons in aging and in Parkinson's disease.