Norepinephrine: The redheaded stepchild of Parkinson's disease

Biochem Pharmacol. 2007 Jul 15;74(2):177-90. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2007.01.036. Epub 2007 Feb 3.


Parkinson's disease (PD) affects approximately 1% of the world's aging population. Despite its prevalence and rigorous research in both humans and animal models, the etiology remains unknown. PD is most often characterized by the degeneration of dopamine (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc), and models of PD generally attempt to mimic this deficit. However, PD is a true multisystem disorder marked by a profound but less appreciated loss of cells in the locus coeruleus (LC), which contains the major group of noradrenergic neurons in the brain. Historic and more recent experiments exploring the role of norepinephrine (NE) in PD will be analyzed in this review. First, we examine the evidence that NE is neuroprotective and that LC degeneration sensitizes DA neurons to damage. The second part of this review focuses on the potential contribution of NE loss to the behavioral symptoms associated with PD. We propose that LC loss represents a crucial turning point in PD progression and that pharmacotherapies aimed at restoring NE have important therapeutic potential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiology
  • Motor Activity
  • Norepinephrine / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / physiology


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine