Dopaminergic (DA) grafts in rat models of Parkinson's disease (PD) have previously been derived from embryonic day (E) 14 grafts. Because there is an increasing interest in the restorative capacity of DA stem and progenitor cells, in the present study we examined the survival and early and late functional behavioral effects of DA progenitor cells derived from E12, E13, E14, and E15 grafts transplanted into rats with unilateral 6-hydroxydopamin lesions. DA transplant-induced functional recovery was already observed in postural balancing reactions after 10 days and in stepping behavior after 13 days, that is, in spontaneous complex behaviors, and later, after 16 days, in the amphetamine-induced rotation test. Three distinct patterns of functional recovery could be observed at 6-9 weeks posttransplantation. First, behavioral improvements in drug-induced rotational asymmetry, stepping, and skilled forelimb behavior were directly related to DA neuron survival and TH-positive fiber reinnervation. Second, recovery in postural balancing reactions was closely related to a specific developmental time window of donor age, for example, only seen in E13 and E14 grafts. Finally, no functional graft effects were seen in the table lift test. Interestingly, DA neuron graft survival, TH-positive fiber outgrowth, and graft volume were significantly influenced by the developmental time window in which the DA progenitor cells were dissected from the ventral mesencephalon, that is, from E12, E13, E14, or E15 rat embryos. These data highlight the complexity of graft-host interactions and provide novel insights into the dynamics of DA progenitor graft-mediated functional recovery in animal models of Parkinson's disease.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.