Transferrin receptors in the Parkinsonian midbrain


MRC Neurochemical Pathology Unit, Newcastle General Hospital, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 6BE, UK.


Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD) and recently it has been suggested that alterations in iron homeostasis may be implicated. Because of the central role of the transferrin receptor in providing access of iron to cells, we have studied the distribution and density of transferrin receptors using [3H]–transferrin ([3H]–Tf) binding and tritium film autoradiography in the normal and PD midbrain. High levels of [3H]–Tf binding were found in the dorsal raphé, oculomotor nucleus and periaqueduc tal grey whilst lower levels of [3H]–Tf binding were found in the tegmentum, red nucleus and substantia nigra. Significant reductions in binding were found in the substantia nigra, red nucleus and oculomotor nucleus in PD, the reductions in [3H]–Tf binding being similar to the loss of nigral neurons in PD. The data suggest that the increased iron content of surviving nigral neurons may reflect a compensatory metabolic response rather than abnormal transferrin receptor expression.