Temporal effects of paraquat/maneb on microglial activation and dopamine neuronal loss in older rats


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Francesca Cicchetti, Ph.D., Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences, CHUL, RC-9800, 2705, Boulevard Laurier, Sainte-Foy, QC, G1V 4G2, Canada. E-mail: Francesca.Cicchetti@crchul.ulaval.ca


We investigated the effects of combined systemic exposure to the herbicide paraquat (PQ) and the fungicide maneb (MB) in 6-month-old rats, an animal model of Parkinson's disease resulting from environmental toxin exposure. Following two doses of PQ (10 mg/kg) and MB (30 mg/kg), 52% of animals developed fatal lung injury. Examination of the remaining animals showed degeneration of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta 6 weeks, but not 4 weeks, following PQ/MB. In contrast, microglial activation was observed at 4 weeks, but had abated by 6 weeks. Compared with our previous findings in younger rats, these results suggest increased susceptibility of older animals to lung and brain toxicity from PQ/MB exposure. Microglial activation preceded, and therefore likely contributed to, DA neurodegeneration. Further, electron microscopy revealed an abnormal appearance of the Golgi apparatus at 4 weeks that was confirmed using double immunostaining for tyrosine hydroxylase and Golgi. This suggests that PQ/MB causes protein processing dysfunction in nigral DA neurons that may be either a direct effect of PQ/MB or the result of microglial activation.