Dopaminergic innervation of the subthalamic nucleus in the normal state, in MPTP-treated monkeys, and in Parkinson's disease patients

J Comp Neurol. 2000 Sep 11;425(1):121-9. doi: 10.1002/1096-9861(20000911)425:1<121::aid-cne10>;2-g.


The existence of a dopaminergic innervation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) has been demonstrated in rats but has remained controversial in primates. The aim of the present study was first to demonstrate the existence of a dopaminergic innervation of the STN in monkeys using tracing methods and then to quantify the loss of dopaminergic fibers in the parkinsonian state in monkeys and humans. Following injection of Fluoro-Gold into the STN of a vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops), retrogradely labeled neurons were found to be scattered in all dopaminergic areas of the mesencephalon. Injection of biotin dextran amine into dopaminergic areas A8 and A9 of two monkeys resulted in anterogradely labeled axons located throughout the whole extent of the STN. Labeled axons that also expressed tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) were reconstructed from serial sections. Some terminal axonal arborizations had profuse branching and occupied much of the STN, and others were restricted to small portions of the nucleus. In TH-immunoreactive sections, numerous sparse, fine, and varicose TH-positive fibers were observed in the STN of normal monkeys and humans. Quantification of these TH-positive fibers revealed a 51% loss of TH-positive fibers in MPTP-intoxicated monkeys and a 65% loss in Parkinson's disease patients compared with their respective controls. These findings demonstrate the existence of a dopaminergic innervation of the STN in primates. The loss of dopaminergic innervation in MPTP-intoxicated monkeys and in Parkinson's disease patients may directly affect the activity of STN neurons and could participate in the hyperactivity of the structure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Axons / chemistry
  • Axons / enzymology
  • Basal Ganglia / chemistry
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Chlorocebus aethiops / anatomy & histology*
  • Dextrans
  • Dopamine / analysis*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Humans
  • MPTP Poisoning / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / chemistry
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Stilbamidines*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / chemistry*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / pathology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / analysis


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Dextrans
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Stilbamidines
  • biotinylated dextran amine
  • Biotin
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine