Iron accumulation in the substantia nigra in rats visualized by ultrasound

Ultrasound Med Biol. 1999 Jul;25(6):901-4. doi: 10.1016/s0301-5629(99)00046-0.


In recent studies, we have found a marked increase in substantia nigra (SN) echogenicity in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) using transcranial ultrasound. Because a substantial body of evidence has accumulated indicating a selective elevation of iron in the SN from patients with PD, we set out to test the hypothesis that trace metals like iron could lead to the observed increase of SN echogenicity in PD. Rat brains were scanned after stereotactic injection of iron in different concentrations into the SN and after injecting ferritin, zinc and 6-OHDA alone, and after the addition of desferrioxamine. The amount of iron in the SN was measured spectroscopically. For iron, and partly for 6-OHDA, in different concentrations, a dose-dependent increase of SN echogenicity could be visualized, corresponding to an increase of iron measured by spectroscopy. No increase of echogenicity was visualized after the injection of ferritin and the addition of desferrioxamine to 6-OHDA, though an increase of iron was measured by spectroscopy. Therefore, we conclude that iron not bound to these proteins may lead to an increase of echogenicity of the SN.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deferoxamine
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ferritins
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Oxidopamine
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Pilot Projects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Substantia Nigra / diagnostic imaging*
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Zinc


  • Oxidopamine
  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Deferoxamine
  • Zinc