Changes in cytokines and neurotrophins in Parkinson's disease

J Neural Transm Suppl. 2000;(60):277-90. doi: 10.1007/978-3-7091-6301-6_19.


Degeneration of the dopamine (DA) neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta and the resulting loss of nerve terminals accompanied by DA deficiency in the striatum are responsible for most of the movement disturbances called parkinsonism, observed in Parkinson's disease (PD). One hypothesis of the cause of degeneration of the nigrostriatal DA neurons is that PD is caused by programmed cell death (apoptosis) due to increased levels of cytokines and/or decreased ones of neurotrophins. We and other workers found markedly increased levels of cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, transforming growth factor (TFG)-alpha, TGF-beta1, and TGF-beta2, and decreased ones of neurotrophins, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF), in the nigrostriatal DA regions and ventricular and lumbar cerebrospinal fluid of PD patients. Furthermore, the levels of TNF-alpha receptor R1 (TNF-R1, p55), bcl-2, soluble Fas (sFas), and the activities of caspase-1 and caspase-3 were also elevated in the nigrostriatal DA regions in PD. In experimental animal models of PD, IL-1beta level was increased and NGF one decreased in the striatum of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced parkinsonian mice, and TNF-alpha level was increased in the substantia nigra and striatum of the 6-hydroxydopamine (6OHDA)-injected side of hemiparkinsonian rats. L-DOPA alone or together with 6OHDA does not increase the level of TNF-alpha in the brain in vivo. Increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines, cytokine receptors and caspase activities, and reduced levels of neurotrophins in the nigrostriatal region in PD patients, and in MPTP- and 6OHDA-produced parkinsonian animals suggest increased immune reactivity and programmed cell death (apoptosis) of neuronal and/or glial cells. These data indicate the presence of such proapoptotic environment in the substantia nigra in PD that may induce increased vulnerability of neuronal or glial cells towards a variety of neurotoxic factors. The probable causative linkage among the increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines and the decreased levels of neurotrophins, candidate parkinsonism-producing neurotoxins such as isoquinoline neurotoxins (Review; Nagatsu, 1997), and the genetic susceptibility to toxic factors, remains for further investigation in the molecular mechanism of PD. The increased cytokine levels, decreased neurotrophin ones, and the possible immune response in the nigrostriatal region in PD indicate new neuroprotective therapy including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, immunosuppressive or immunophilin-binding drugs such as FK-506, and drugs increasing neurotrophins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / physiology
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Neurotoxins / pharmacology
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / metabolism
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / pathology
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / physiopathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neurotoxins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • fas Receptor
  • Caspases