Exercise has been shown to be potently neuroprotective in several neurodegenerative models, including 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1, 2, 3, 6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) model of Parkinson's disease (PD). In order to determine the critical duration of exercise necessary for DA neuroprotection, mice were allowed to run for either 1, 2 or 3months prior to treatment with saline or MPTP. Quantification of DA neurons in the SNpc show that mice allowed to run unrestricted for 1 or 2months lost significant numbers of neurons following MPTP administration as compared to saline treated mice; however, 3months of exercise provided complete protection against MPTP-induced neurotoxicity. To determine the critical intensity of exercise for DA neuroprotection, mice were restricted in their running to either 1/3 or 2/3 that of the full running group for 3months prior to treatment with saline or MPTP. Quantification of DA neurons in the SNpc show that mice whose running was restricted lost significant numbers of DA neurons due to MPTP toxicity; however, the 2/3 running group demonstrated partial protection. Neurochemical analyses of DA and its metabolites DOPAC and HVA show that exercise also functionally protects neurons from MPTP-induced neurotoxicity. Proteomic analysis of SN and STR tissues indicates that 3months of exercise induces changes in proteins related to energy regulation, cellular metabolism, the cytoskeleton, and intracellular signaling events. Taken together, these data indicate that exercise potently protects DA neurons from acute MPTP toxicity, suggesting that this simple lifestyle element may also confer significant protection against developing PD in humans.
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