Manganese exposure exacerbates progressive motor deficits and neurodegeneration in the MitoPark mouse model of Parkinson's disease: Relevance to gene and environment interactions in metal neurotoxicity

Neurotoxicology. 2018 Jan:64:240-255. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2017.06.002. Epub 2017 Jun 20.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is now recognized as a neurodegenerative condition caused by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental influences. Chronic manganese (Mn) exposure has been implicated in the development of PD. Since mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with PD pathology as well as Mn neurotoxicity, we investigated whether Mn exposure augments mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegeneration in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system using a newly available mitochondrially defective transgenic mouse model of PD, the MitoPark mouse. This unique PD model recapitulates key features of the disease including progressive neurobehavioral changes and neuronal degeneration. We exposed MitoPark mice to a low dose of Mn (10mg/kg, p.o.) daily for 4 weeks starting at age 8 wks and then determined the behavioral, neurochemical and histological changes. Mn exposure accelerated the rate of progression of motor deficits in MitoPark mice when compared to the untreated MitoPark group. Mn also worsened olfactory function in this model. Most importantly, Mn exposure intensified the depletion of striatal dopamine and nigral TH neuronal loss in MitoPark mice. The neurodegenerative changes were accompanied by enhanced oxidative damage in the striatum and substantia nigra (SN) of MitoPark mice treated with Mn. Furthermore, Mn-treated MitoPark mice had significantly more oligomeric protein and IBA-1-immunoreactive microglia cells, suggesting Mn augments neuroinflammatory processes in the nigrostriatal pathway. To further confirm the direct effect of Mn on impaired mitochondrial function, we also generated a mitochondrially defective dopaminergic cell model by knocking out the TFAM transcription factor by using a CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing method. Seahorse mitochondrial bioenergetic analysis revealed that Mn decreases mitochondrial basal and ATP-linked respiration in the TFAM KO cells. Collectively, our results reveal that Mn can augment mitochondrial dysfunction to exacerbate nigrostriatal neurodegeneration and PD-related behavioral symptoms. Our study also demonstrates that the MitoPark mouse is an excellent model to study the gene-environment interactions associated with mitochondrial defects in the nigral dopaminergic system as well as to evaluate the contribution of potential environmental toxicant interactions in a slowly progressive model of Parkinsonism.

Keywords: Animal model; Dopamine; Gene-environment interaction; Manganese; MitoPark; Mitochondria; Neuroinflammation; Parkinson’s disease; TFAM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / drug effects*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Male
  • Manganese / toxicity*
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / pathology*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / chemically induced
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / metabolism
  • Substantia Nigra / drug effects*
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism
  • Substantia Nigra / pathology


  • Manganese