JNK isoforms differentially regulate neurite growth and regeneration in dopaminergic neurons in vitro

J Mol Neurosci. 2011 Oct;45(2):284-93. doi: 10.1007/s12031-011-9519-1. Epub 2011 Apr 6.


Parkinson's disease is characterized by selective and progressive loss of midbrain DAergic neurons (MDN) in the substantia nigra and degeneration of its nigrostriatal projections. Whereas the cellular pathophysiology has been closely linked to an activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) and c-Jun, the involvement of JNKs in regenerative processes of the nigrostriatal pathway is controversially discussed. In our study, we utilized a mechanical scratch lesion paradigm of midbrain DAergic neurons in vitro and studied regenerative neuritic outgrowth. After a siRNA-mediated knockdown of each of the three JNK isoforms, we found that JNKs differentially regulate neurite regeneration. Knockdown of JNK3 resulted in the most prominent neurite outgrowth impairment. This effect was attenuated again by plasmid overexpression of JNK3. We also evaluated cell survival of the affected neurons at the scratch border. JNK3 was found to be also relevant for survival of MDN which were lesioned by the scratch. Our data suggest that JNK isoforms are involved in differential regulation of cell death and regeneration in MDN depending on their neurite integrity. JNK3 appears to be required for regeneration and survival in the case of an environment permissive for regeneration. Future therapeutic approaches for the DAergic system may thus require isoform specific targeting of these kinases.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurites / physiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Isoenzymes
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases