The subventricular zone retains its neurogenic capacity throughout life and, as such, is often considered a potential source for endogenous repair in neurodegenerative disorders. Because dopamine is believed to stimulate adult neurogenesis, we looked for possible variations in the dopaminergic innervation of the subventricular zone between cases of Huntington's chorea and Parkinson's diseases. Antibodies against tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) were used as specific markers of dopaminergic axons and cell proliferating activity, respectively. The immunohistochemical approach was applied to postmortem tissue from 2 Parkinson's disease cases, 4 Huntington's disease cases, along with age-matched controls. The immunostaining was revealed with either diaminobenzidine or fluorescent-conjugated secondary antibodies. Optical density measurements were made along the entire dorso-ventral extent of the caudate nucleus. An intense TH+ zone was detected along the ventricular border of the caudate nucleus in Huntington's disease cases, but not in patients with Parkinson's disease or age-matched controls. This thin (287±38 μm) paraventricular zone was composed of numerous small and densely packed dopamine axon varicosities and overlapped the deep layers of the subventricular zone. Its immunoreactivity was 47±8% more intense than that of adjacent striatal areas. The dopamine innervation of the subventricular zone is strikingly massive in Huntington's chorea compared to Parkinson's disease, a finding that concurs with the marked increase in neurogenesis noted in the subventricular zone of Huntington's disease patients. This finding suggests that dopamine plays a crucial role in mechanisms designed to compensate for the massive striatal neuronal losses that occur in Huntington's disease.
Keywords: Huntington’s chorea; Parkinson’s disease; Stem cells; adult neurogenesis; basal ganglia; human striatum; neurodegenerative disorders; subventricular zone.