• Autoradiography;
  • l–methyl–4–phenyl–l,2,3,6–tetrahydropyridine;
  • MPTP;
  • melanin;
  • monoaminergic;
  • parkinsonism;
  • brain;
  • mice

Abstract: A recently discovered neurotoxic compound, l–methyl–4–phenyl–l,2,3,6–tetrahydropyridine, has been found to cause a parkinsonian–like syndrome in man and monkey, but not in laboratory animals such as rat, mouse and guinea pig. MPTP seems to selectively destroy the melanin containing dopaminergic cells in pars compacta of substantia nigra. Lower mammalian species do not have melanin in these cells, which indicates that the presence of neuromelanin may be of importance for the development of MPTP–induced lesions. By means of whole–body autoradiography of 3H–MPTP in mice, accumulation and retention was observed in the dopaminergic pathways, in locus caeruleus and in structures in the medulla oblongata and spinal cord. A high uptake was also seen in melanin–containing tissues such as in the eyes of pigmented mice. MPTP has earlier been found to have high affinity in vitro for dopamine melanin, which is similar to the pigment in substantia nigra. The typical features of the MPTP–induced neurotoxicity with destruction of pigmented nerve cells and development of parkinsonism may be due to accumulation and retention of MPTP and its metabolites in these cells. In species with pigmented nerve cells, such as man and monkey, the accumulation may be much more pronounced because of the melanin affinity of MPTP and its metabolites