Deficiency of Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Protects Against MPTP Toxicity In Vivo


  • Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., Philadelphia

  • Abbreviations used: DOPAC, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid; HVA, homovanillic acid; iNOS and nNOS, inducible and neuronal nitric oxide synthase, respectively; NO[UNK], nitric oxide; NOS, nitric oxide synthase; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; PD, Parkinson's disease; SNpc, substantia nigra pars compacta; TH, tyrosine hydroxylase.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. J. B. Schulz at Department of Neurology, Hoppe-Seyler-Strasse 3, 72076 Tübingen, Germany. E-mail:


Abstract: MPTP produces clinical, biochemical, and neuropathologic changes reminiscent of those that occur in idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD). In the present study we show that MPTP treatment led to activation of microglia in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc), which was associated and colocalized with an increase in inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression. In iNOS-deficient mice the increase of iNOS expression but not the activation of microglia was blocked. Dopaminergic SNpc neurons of iNOS-deficient mice were almost completely protected from MPTP toxicity in a chronic paradigm of MPTP toxicity. Because the MPTP-induced decrease in striatal concentrations of dopamine and its metabolites did not differ between iNOS-deficient mice and their wild-type littermates, this protection was not associated with a preservation of nigrostriatal terminals. Our results suggest that iNOS-derived nitric oxide produced in microglia plays an important role in the death of dopaminergic neurons but that other mechanisms contribute to the loss of dopaminergic terminals in MPTP neurotoxicity. We conclude that inhibition of iNOS may be a promising target for the treatment of PD.