Peripheral markers of apoptosis in Parkinson's disease: the effect of dopaminergic drugs

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Dec;1010:675-8. doi: 10.1196/annals.1299.123.


In this study, we measured the lymphocyte levels of proteins involved in apoptosis regulation, such as Bcl-2, the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), caspase-3, and Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn SOD), in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), either untreated or under therapy with dopaminergic agents (l-Dopa alone or l-dopa + dopamine agonists) and in healthy volunteers. All PD groups showed increased activity of caspase-3, compared to controls, particularly those under treatment only with l-Dopa. In this latter group, the increase in caspase-3 activity was also paralleled by an increase in the concentration of Cu/Zn SOD. In addition, patients taking l-Dopa + dopamine agonists showed marked decrease in Bcl-2 levels and increased PBR expression, which seems in keeping with the hypothesis that PBR may be functionally related to Bcl-2. In conclusion, we found clear modifications in the levels of proteins involved in the control of apoptosis in lymphocytes of PD patients. These changes were disease related but also modulated by the pharmacological treatment, which confirms the potential role of apoptosis in PD pathogenesis and the modulatory influence of dopaminergic agents.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antiparkinson Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / analysis
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Reference Values
  • Superoxide Dismutase / analysis


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Levodopa
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases