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‘Rejuvenation’ protects neurons in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease


Why dopamine-containing neurons of the brain’s substantia nigra pars compacta die in Parkinson’s disease has been an enduring mystery. Our studies suggest that the unusual reliance of these neurons on L-type Cav1.3 Ca2+ channels to drive their maintained, rhythmic pacemaking renders them vulnerable to stressors thought to contribute to disease progression. The reliance on these channels increases with age, as juvenile dopamine-containing neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta use pacemaking mechanisms common to neurons not affected in Parkinson’s disease. These mechanisms remain latent in adulthood, and blocking Cav1.3 Ca2+ channels in adult neurons induces a reversion to the juvenile form of pacemaking. Such blocking (‘rejuvenation’) protects these neurons in both in vitro and in vivo models of Parkinson’s disease, pointing to a new strategy that could slow or stop the progression of the disease.

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Figure 1: SNc dopaminergic neurons are Ca v 1.3-Ca 2+ -channel-dependent pacemakers.
Figure 2: Pacemaking mechanisms in SNc dopaminergic neurons are developmentally regulated and sensitive to Ca v 1.3 deletion.
Figure 3: Ca v 1.3 channel blockade induces a reversion to a juvenile form of Na + /HCN-channel-dependent pacemaking.
Figure 4: Pacemaking currents govern dendritic Ca 2+ concentrations.
Figure 5: Rejuvenation of SNc dopaminergic neurons protects them against the mitochondrial toxin rotenone and chronic MPTP treatment.


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This work was supported by grants from the Picower Foundation and NIH NINDS to D.J.S. and G.E.M. We thank J. Held, D. Wokosin, P. Hockberger, E. Mugnaini, S. Ulrich, K. Saporito, Q. Ruan, J. Jackolin, F. Jodelka and M. Avram for help with this work.

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Correspondence to D. James Surmeier.

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Chan, C., Guzman, J., Ilijic, E. et al. ‘Rejuvenation’ protects neurons in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease. Nature 447, 1081–1086 (2007).

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