The Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase-2 (LRRK2) gene is a common mutation target in Parkinson's disease (PD), but the cellular mechanisms by which such mutations underlie the pathophysiology of PD remain poorly understood. Thus, to better characterize the neuronal target sites of LRRK2 mutations in the primate brain, we studied the cellular and ultrastructural localization of Lrrk2 immunoreactivity in the monkey basal ganglia. As previously described, the monkey striatum was the most enriched basal ganglia structure in Lrrk2 labeling. Both projection neurons and parvalbumin-containing GABAergic interneurons displayed Lrrk2 immunoreactivity. At the electron microscopic level, striatal Lrrk2 labeling was associated predominantly with dendritic shafts and subsets of putative glutamatergic axon terminals. At the pallidal level, moderate cellular Lrrk2 immunostaining was found in the external globus pallidus (GPe), while neurons in the internal globus pallidus (GPi) were devoid of Lrrk2 immunoreactivity. Strong labeling was associated with cholinergic neurons in the nucleus basalis of Meynert. Midbrain dopaminergic neurons in the primate substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and ventral tegmental area harbored a significant level of Lrrk2 labeling, while neurons in the subthalamic nucleus were lightly immunostained. Most thalamic nuclei were enriched in Lrrk2 immunoreactivity, except for the centromedian nucleus that was completely devoid of labeling. Thus, Lrrk2 protein is widely distributed in the monkey basal ganglia, suggesting that gene mutations in PD may result in multifarious pathophysiological effects that could impact various target sites in the functional circuitry of the primate basal ganglia.
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