• glial cells;
  • inflammation;
  • osteopontin;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • substantia nigra


Nigral cell death in Parkinson's disease is characterized by glial cell activation leading to inflammatory changes. Osteopontin (OPN) is a glycosylated phosphoprotein that is induced by inflammatory mediators and which we have previously shown to be present in the substantia nigra. However, the role of OPN in the nigral inflammation is not known. We now report on the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced glial cell activation in the substantia nigra of rats on OPN expression. LPS administration induced dopaminergic cell death as shown by reduced nigral tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity. There was a corresponding time-dependent increase in both OPN mRNA, which was maximal at 48 h, and protein levels, which peaked at 72 h before returning to control levels by 120 h. This increase was accompanied by marked reactive gliosis as shown by increased OX-42, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ED1 immunoreactivity. OX-42-positive cells increased in a time-dependent manner, peaking at 72 h before returning to control levels at 120 h. Similarly, ED1-positive cells were present in their greatest numbers at 24 h but then gradually declined. These changes mirrored the alterations occurring in OPN protein and OPN mRNA, respectively. In contrast, GFAP-positive cells only started to increase in number at 120 h. Colocalization studies showed that OPN was present in both ED1- and OX-42-positive cells but not in GFAP-positive cells. These data confirm that intranigral injection of LPS induces a rapid and marked gliosis that accompanies the loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurones and suggest that, after glial cell activation, enhanced expression of OPN occurs linked to increased numbers of microglia and/or macrophages. This suggests that OPN may be functionally important in the control of inflammatory changes.