Background and purpose: We recently reported that broad spectrum agonist-induced activation of presynaptic group III metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors within the substantia nigra pars compacta using L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate provided functional neuroprotection in the 6-hydroxydopamine lesion rat model of Parkinson's disease. The aim of this study was to establish whether selective activation of the mGlu(4) receptor alone could afford similar functional neuroprotection.
Experimental approach: The neuroprotective effects of 8 days of supranigral treatment with a positive allosteric modulator of mGlu(4) receptors, (+/-)-cis-2-(3,5-dichlorphenylcarbamoyl)cyclohexanecarboxylic acid (VU0155041), were investigated in rats with unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine lesions. The effects of VU0155041 treatment on motor function were assessed using both habitual (cylinder test) and forced (adjusted stepping, amphetamine-induced rotations) behavioural tests. Nigrostriatal tract integrity was examined by analysis of tyrosine hydroxylase, dopa decarboxylase or dopamine levels in the striatum and tyrosine hydroxylase-positive cell counts in the substantia nigra pars compacta.
Key results: VU0155041 provided around 40% histological protection against a unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine lesion as well as significant preservation of motor function. These effects were inhibited by pre-treatment with (RS)-α-cyclopropyl-4-phosphonophenylglycine, confirming a receptor-mediated response. Reduced levels of inflammatory markers were also evident in the brains of VU0155041-treated animals.
Conclusions and implications: Allosteric potentiation of mGlu(4) receptors in the substantia nigra pars compacta provided neuroprotective effects in the 6-hydroxydopamine rat model A reduced inflammatory response may contribute, in part, to this action. In addition to the reported symptomatic effects, activation of mGlu(4) receptors may also offer a novel approach for slowing the progressive degeneration observed in Parkinson's disease.
© 2012 The Authors. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2012 The British Pharmacological Society.