H2O2: a dynamic neuromodulator

Neuroscientist. 2011 Aug;17(4):389-406. doi: 10.1177/1073858411404531. Epub 2011 Jun 10.


Increasing evidence implicates hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) as an intracellular and intercellular signaling molecule that can influence processes from embryonic development to cell death. Most research has focused on relatively slow signaling, on the order of minutes to days, via second messenger cascades. However, H(2)O(2) can also mediate subsecond signaling via ion channel activation. This rapid signaling has been examined most thoroughly in the nigrostriatal dopamine (DA) pathway, which plays a key role in facilitating movement mediated by the basal ganglia. In DA neurons of the substantia nigra, endogenously generated H(2)O(2) activates ATP-sensitive K(+) (K-ATP) channels that inhibit DA neuron firing. In the striatum, H(2)O(2) generated downstream from glutamatergic AMPA receptor activation in medium spiny neurons acts as a diffusible messenger that inhibits axonal DA release, also via K-ATP channels. The source of dynamically generated H(2)O(2) is mitochondrial respiration; thus, H(2)O(2) provides a novel link between activity and metabolism via K-ATP channels. Additional targets of H(2)O(2) include transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. In contrast to the inhibitory effect of H(2)O(2) acting via K-ATP channels, TRP channel activation is excitatory. This review describes emerging roles of H(2)O(2) as a signaling agent in the nigrostriatal pathway and basal ganglia neurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / drug effects
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology*
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Substantia Nigra / drug effects
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Hydrogen Peroxide