Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by the appearance of motor symptoms many years after the onset of neurodegeneration, which explains low efficiency of therapy. Therefore, one of the priorities in neurology is to develop an early diagnosis and preventive treatment of PD, based on knowledge of molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration and neuroplasticity in the nigrostriatal system. However, due to inability to diagnose PD at preclinical stage, research and development must be performed in animal models by comparing the nigrostriatal system in the models of asymptomatic and early symptomatic stages of PD. In this study, we showed that despite the progressive loss of neurons in the substantia nigra at the presymptomatic and symptomatic stage, almost no change was observed in the main functional characteristics of this brain region, including dopamine (DA) uptake and release, dopamine transporter (DAT) and vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) expression, and activity of MAO-A and MAO-B. In the striatum of presymptomatic mice, some parameters (DA release and uptake, MAO-A activity) remained compensatory unchanged or compensatory decreased (MAO-B gene expression and activity), while others—a reduction in DA levels in tissue and extracellular space and in VMAT2 and DAT expression—manifest the functional failure. In symptomatic mice, only a few parameters (spontaneous DA release and uptake, MAO-B gene expression and activity) remained at the same level as at presymptomatic stage, while most parameters (DA level in tissue and extracellular space, DA-stimulated release, VMAT2 and DAT contents), decreased, showing decompensation, which was enhanced by increasing MAO-A activity. Thus, this study provides a comprehensive assessment of the molecular mechanisms of neuroplasticity in 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine models of preclinical and clinical stages of PD, which could potentially serve as a powerful tool for translational medicine.
A crucial event in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease is the death of dopaminergic neurons of the nigrostriatal system, which are responsible for the regulation of motor function. Motor symptoms first appear in patients 20–30 years after the onset of the neurodegeneration, when there has been a loss of an essential number of neurons and depletion of compensatory reserves of the brain, which explains the low efficiency of treatment. Therefore, the development of a technology for the diagnosing of Parkinson’s disease at the preclinical stage is of a high priority in neurology. In this study, we have developed at an experimental model a fundamentally novel for neurology approach for diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at the preclinical stage. This methodology, widely used for the diagnosis of chronic diseases in the internal medicine, is based on the application of a challenge test that temporarily increases the latent failure of a specific functional system, thereby inducing the short-term appearance of clinical symptoms. The provocation test was developed by a systemic administration of α-methyl-p-tyrosine (αMpT), a reversible inhibitor of tyrosine hydroxylase to MPTP-treated mice at the presymptomatic stage of parkinsonism. For this, we first selected a minimum dose of αMpT, which caused a decrease of the dopamine level in the striatum of normal mice below the threshold at which motor dysfunctions appear. Then, we found the maximum dose of αMpT at which a loss of dopamine in the striatum of normal mice did not reach the threshold level, and motor behavior was not impaired. We showed that αMpT at this dose induced a decrease of the dopamine concentration in the striatum of MPTP-treated mice at the presymptomatic stage of parkinsonism below a threshold level that results in the impairment of motor behavior. Finally, we proved that αMpT exerts a temporal and reversible influence on the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system of MPTP-treated mice with no long-term side effects on other catecholaminergic systems. Thus, the above experimental data strongly suggest that αMpT-based challenge test might be considered as the provocation test for Parkinson’s disease diagnosis at the preclinical stage in the future clinical trials.