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Keywords:

  • non-human primate;
  • striatum;
  • ultrastructure;
  • vGluT1;
  • vGluT2

Abstract

Two cardinal features of Parkinson's disease (PD) pathophysiology are a loss of glutamatergic synapses paradoxically accompanied by an increased glutamatergic transmission to the striatum. The exact substrate of this increased glutamatergic drive remains unclear. The striatum receives glutamatergic inputs from the thalamus and the cerebral cortex. Using vesicular glutamate transporters (vGluTs) 1 and 2 as markers of the corticostriatal and thalamostriatal afferents, respectively, we examined changes in the synaptology and relative prevalence of striatal glutamatergic inputs in methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-treated monkeys using electron microscopic immunoperoxidase and confocal immunofluorescence methods. Our findings demonstrate that the prevalence of vGluT1-containing terminals is significantly increased in the striatum of MPTP-treated monkeys (51.9 ± 3.5% to 66.5 ± 3.4% total glutamatergic boutons), without any significant change in the pattern of synaptic connectivity; more than 95% of vGluT1-immunolabeled terminals formed axo-spinous synapses in both conditions. In contrast, the prevalence of vGluT2-immunoreactive terminals did not change after MPTP treatment (21.7 ± 1.3% vs. 21.6 ± 1.2% total glutamatergic boutons). However, a substantial increase in the ratio of axo-spinous to axo-dendritic synapses formed by vGluT2-immunoreactive terminals was found in the pre-caudate and post-putamen striatal regions of MPTP-treated monkeys, suggesting a certain degree of synaptic reorganization of the thalamostriatal system in parkinsonism. About 20% of putative glutamatergic terminals did not show immunoreactivity in striatal tissue immunostained for both vGluT1 and vGluT2, suggesting the expression of another vGluT in these boutons. These findings provide striking evidence that suggests a differential degree of plasticity of the corticostriatal and thalamostriatal system in PD.