Lithium has recently been suggested to have neuroprotective effects in several models of neurodegenerative disease including Parkinson׳s disease (PD). Levodopa (l-Dopa) replacement therapy remains the most common and effective treatment for PD, although it induces the complication of l-Dopa induced dyskinesia after years of use. Here we examined the potential use of lithium in combination with l-Dopa/Carbidopa for both reducing MPTP-induced abnormal involuntary movements (AIMs) as well as protecting against cell death in MPTP-lesioned mice. Chronic lithium administration (0.127% LiCl in the feed) in the presence of daily l-Dopa/Carbidopa injection for a period of 2 months was sufficient to effectively reduce MPTP-induced AIMs in mice. Mechanistically, lithium was found to suppress MPTP-induced calpain activities in vivo coinciding with down-regulation of calpain-1 but not calpain-2 expression in both the striatum (ST) and the brain stem (BS). Calpain inhibition has previously been associated with increased levels of the rate-limiting enzyme in dopamine synthesis, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), which is probably mediated by the up-regulation of the transcription factors MEF-2A and 2D. Lithium was found to induce up-regulation of TH expression in the ST and the BS, as well as in N27 rat dopaminergic cells. Further, histone acetyltransferase (HAT) expression was substantially up-regulated by lithium treatment in vitro. These results suggest the potential use of lithium in combination with l-Dopa/Carbidopa not only as a neuroprotectant, but also for reducing AIMs and possibly alleviating potential side-effects associated with the current treatment for PD.
Keywords: AIM; Calpain 1; Combination therapy; MPTP; Neurodegenerative disease.
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