Objective: Dopaminergic neuronal death in Parkinson's disease (PD) is accompanied by oxidative stress and preceded by glutathione depletion. The development of disease-modifying therapies for PD has been hindered by a paucity of animal models that mimic these features and demonstrate an age-related progression. The EAAC1(-/-) mouse may be useful in this regard, because EAAC1(-/-) mouse neurons have impaired neuronal cysteine uptake, resulting in reduced neuronal glutathione content and chronic oxidative stress. Here we aimed to (1) characterize the age-related changes in nigral dopaminergic neurons in the EAAC1(-/-) mouse, and (2) use the EAAC1(-/-) mouse to evaluate N-acetylcysteine, a membrane-permeable cysteine pro-drug, as a potential disease-modifying intervention for PD.
Methods: Wild-type mice, EAAC1(-/-) mice, and EAAC1(-/-) mice chronically treated with N-acetylcysteine were evaluated at serial time points for evidence of oxidative stress, dopaminergic cell death, and motor abnormalities.
Results: EAAC1(-/-) mice showed age-dependent loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, with more than 40% of these neurons lost by age 12 months. This neuronal loss was accompanied by increased nitrotyrosine formation, nitrosylated α-synuclein, and microglial activation. These changes were substantially reduced in mice that received N-acetylcysteine.
Interpretation: These findings suggest that the EAAC1(-/-) mouse may be a useful model of the chronic neuronal oxidative stress that occurs in PD. The salutary effects of N-acetylcysteine in this mouse model provide an impetus for clinical evaluation of glutathione repletion in PD.
Copyright © 2010 American Neurological Association.