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Keywords:

  • motor symptoms;
  • MPTP ;
  • noradrenaline;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • thalamus

Abstract

We recently found severe noradrenaline deficits throughout the thalamus of patients with Parkinson's disease [C. Pifl, S. J. Kish and O. Hornykiewicz Mov Disord. 27, 2012, 1618.]. As this noradrenaline loss was especially severe in nuclei of the motor thalamus normally transmitting basal ganglia motor output to the cortex, we hypothesized that this noradrenaline loss aggravates the motor disorder of Parkinson's disease. Here, we analysed noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin in motor (ventrolateral and ventroanterior) and non-motor (mediodorsal, centromedian, ventroposterior lateral and reticular) thalamic nuclei in MPTP-treated monkeys who were always asymptomatic; who recovered from mild parkinsonism; and monkeys with stable, either moderate or severe parkinsonism. We found that only the symptomatic parkinsonian animals had significant noradrenaline losses specifically in the motor thalamus, with the ventroanterior motor nucleus being affected only in the severe parkinsonian animals. In contrast, the striatal dopamine loss was identical in both the mild and severe symptom groups. MPTP-treatment had no significant effect on noradrenaline in non-motor thalamic nuclei or dopamine and serotonin in any thalamic subregion. We conclude that in the MPTP primate model, loss of noradrenaline in the motor thalamus may also contribute to the clinical expression of the parkinsonian motor disorder, corroborating experimentally our hypothesis on the role of thalamic noradrenaline deficit in Parkinson's disease.