The dramatic response of most motor and some nonmotor symptoms to dopaminergic therapies has contributed to maintaining the long-established identity of Parkinson's disease (PD) as primarily a nigrostriatal dopamine (DA) deficiency syndrome. However, DA neurotransmission may be neither the first nor the major neurotransmitter casualty in the neurodegenerative sequence of PD. Growing evidence supports earlier norepinephrine (NE) deficiency resulting from selective degeneration of neurons of the locus coeruleus and sympathetic ganglia. Dopaminergic replacement therapy therefore would seem to neglect some of the motor, behavioral, cognitive, and autonomic impairments that are directly or indirectly associated with the marked deficiency of NE in the brain and elsewhere. Therapeutic strategies to enhance NE neurotransmission have undergone only limited pharmacological testing. Currently, these approaches include selective NE reuptake inhibition, presynaptic α2 -adrenergic receptor blockade, and an NE prodrug, the artificial amino acid L-threo-3,4-dihydroxyphenylserine. In addition to reducing the consequences of deficient noradrenergic signaling, enhancement strate gies have the potential for augmenting the effects of dopaminergic therapies in PD. Furthermore, early recognition of the various clinical manifestations associated with NE deficiency, which may precede development of motor symptoms, could provide a window of opportunity for neuroprotective interventions.
Keywords: Parkinson's disease; autonomic; cognitive; locus coeruleus; norepinephrine; sleep disorders.
© 2014 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.