Molecular pathways involved in the neurotoxicity of 6-OHDA, dopamine and MPTP: contribution to the apoptotic theory in Parkinson's disease

Prog Neurobiol. 2001 Oct;65(2):135-72. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(01)00003-x.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a preferential loss of the dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta. Although the etiology of PD is unknown, major biochemical processes such as oxidative stress and mitochondrial inhibition are largely described. However, despite these findings, the actual therapeutics are essentially symptomatical and are not able to block the degenerative process. Recent histological studies performed on brains from PD patients suggest that nigral cell death could be apoptotic. However, since post-mortem studies do not allow precise determination of the sequence of events leading to this apoptotic cell death, the molecular pathways involved in this process have been essentially studied on experimental models reproducing the human disease. These latter are created by using neurotoxic compounds such as 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) or dopamine (DA). Extensive study of these models have shown that they mimick, in vitro and in vivo, the histological and/or the biochemical characteristics of PD and thus help to define important cellular actors of cell death presumably critical for the nigral degeneration. This review reports recent data concerning the biochemical and molecular apoptotic mechanisms underlying the experimental models of PD and correlates them to the phenomena occurring in human disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Dopamine / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • MPTP Poisoning / metabolism*
  • Nerve Degeneration / chemically induced
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism
  • Oxidopamine / toxicity*
  • Sympatholytics / toxicity*


  • Sympatholytics
  • Oxidopamine
  • Dopamine