Non cell-autonomous processes are thought to play critical roles in the cellular maintenance of the healthy and diseased brain but mechanistic details remain unclear. We report that the interruption of a non cell-autonomous mode of sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling originating from dopaminergic neurons causes progressive, adult-onset degeneration of dopaminergic, cholinergic, and fast spiking GABAergic neurons of the mesostriatal circuit, imbalance of cholinergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission, and motor deficits reminiscent of Parkinson's disease. Variable Shh signaling results in graded inhibition of muscarinic autoreceptor- and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)-expression in the striatum. Reciprocally, graded signals that emanate from striatal cholinergic neurons and engage the canonical GDNF receptor Ret inhibit Shh expression in dopaminergic neurons. Thus, we discovered a mechanism for neuronal subtype specific and reciprocal communication that is essential for neurochemical and structural homeostasis in the nigrostriatal circuit. These results provide integrative insights into non cell-autonomous processes likely at play in neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease.
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