Age-related changes in dopamine transporters and accumulation of 3-nitrotyrosine in rhesus monkey midbrain dopamine neurons: relevance in selective neuronal vulnerability to degeneration

Eur J Neurosci. 2008 Jun;27(12):3205-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06307.x.


Aging is the strongest risk factor for developing Parkinson's disease (PD). There is a preferential loss of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tier of the substantia nigra (vtSN) compared to the dorsal tier and ventral tegmental area (VTA) in PD. Examining age-related and region-specific differences in DA neurons represents a means of identifying factors potentially involved in vulnerability or resistance to degeneration. Nitrative stress is among the factors potentially underlying DA neuron degeneration. We studied the relationship between 3-nitrotyrosine (3NT; a marker of nitrative damage) and DA transporters [DA transporter (DAT) and vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT)] during aging in DA subregions of rhesus monkeys. The percentage of DA neurons containing 3NT increased significantly only in the vtSN with advancing age, and the vtSN had a greater percentage of 3NT-positive neurons when compared to the VTA. The relationship between 3NT and DA transporters was determined by measuring fluorescence intensity of 3NT, DAT and VMAT staining. 3NT intensity increased with advancing age in the vtSN. Increased DAT, VMAT and DAT/VMAT ratios were associated with increased 3NT in individual DA neurons. These results suggest nitrative damage accumulates in midbrain DA neurons with advancing age, an effect exacerbated in the vulnerable vtSN. The capacity of a DA neuron to accumulate more cytosolic DA, as inferred from DA transporter expression, is related to accumulation of nitrative damage. These findings are consistent with a role for aging-related accrual of nitrative damage in the selective vulnerability of vtSN neurons to degeneration in PD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism*
  • Substantia Nigra / pathology
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / pathology
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins / metabolism


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins
  • 3-nitrotyrosine
  • Tyrosine