A highly reproducible rotenone model of Parkinson's disease

Neurobiol Dis. 2009 May;34(2):279-90. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2009.01.016.


The systemic rotenone model of Parkinson's disease (PD) accurately replicates many aspects of the pathology of human PD and has provided insights into the pathogenesis of PD. The major limitation of the rotenone model has been its variability, both in terms of the percentage of animals that develop a clear-cut nigrostriatal lesion and the extent of that lesion. The goal here was to develop an improved and highly reproducible rotenone model of PD. In these studies, male Lewis rats in three age groups (3, 7 or 12-14 months) were administered rotenone (2.75 or 3.0 mg/kg/day) in a specialized vehicle by daily intraperitoneal injection. All rotenone-treated animals developed bradykinesia, postural instability, and/or rigidity, which were reversed by apomorphine, consistent with a lesion of the nigrostriatal dopamine system. Animals were sacrificed when the PD phenotype became debilitating. Rotenone treatment caused a 45% loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive substantia nigra neurons and a commensurate loss of striatal dopamine. Additionally, in rotenone-treated animals, alpha-synuclein and poly-ubiquitin positive aggregates were observed in dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra. In summary, this version of the rotenone model is highly reproducible and may provide an excellent tool to test new neuroprotective strategies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / deficiency
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced / pathology
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced / physiopathology*
  • Hypokinesia / chemically induced
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Male
  • Muscle Rigidity / chemically induced
  • Nerve Degeneration / chemically induced
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / pathology
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rotenone / toxicity*
  • Substantia Nigra / drug effects*
  • Substantia Nigra / pathology
  • Substantia Nigra / physiopathology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / drug effects
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Ubiquitins / drug effects
  • Ubiquitins / metabolism
  • Uncoupling Agents / toxicity
  • alpha-Synuclein / drug effects
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism


  • Neurotoxins
  • Ubiquitins
  • Uncoupling Agents
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Rotenone
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine