Aggrecan-based extracellular matrix is an integral part of the human basal ganglia circuit

Neuroscience. 2008 Jan 24;151(2):489-504. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.10.033. Epub 2007 Nov 7.


The extracellular matrix is known to be involved in neuronal communication and the regulation of plastic changes, and also considered to protect neurons and synapses against damage. The goal of this study was to investigate how major extracellular matrix components (aggrecan, link protein, hyaluronan) constitute the pathways of the nigral system in the human basal ganglia circuit affected by neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease. Here we show that aggrecan- and link protein-related components form clear regional distribution patterns, whereas hyaluronan is widely distributed in gray and white matter. Two predominant phenotypes of the aggrecan-based matrix can be discriminated: (1) perineuronal nets (PNs) and (2) axonal coats (ACs) encapsulating preterminal fibers and synaptic boutons. Clearly contoured PNs are associated with GABAergic projection neurons in the external and internal division of the globus pallidus, the lateral and reticular part of the substantia nigra, as well as subpopulations of striatal and thalamic inhibitory interneurons. Dopaminergic nigral neurons are devoid of PNs but are contacted to a different extent by matrix-coated boutons forming subnucleus-specific patterns. A very dense network of ACs is characteristic especially of the posterior lateral cell groups of the compact substantia nigra (nigrosome 1). In the subthalamic nucleus and the lateral thalamic nuclei numerous AC-associated axons were attached to principal neurons devoid of PNs. We conclude from the region-specific patterns that the aggrecan-based extracellular matrix is adapted to the fast processing of sensorimotor activities which are the therapeutic target of surgery and deep brain stimulation in the treatment of advanced stages of Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aggrecans / physiology*
  • Autopsy
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Tissue Fixation


  • Aggrecans