Low-Dose Aspirin Upregulates Tyrosine Hydroxylase and Increases Dopamine Production in Dopaminergic Neurons: Implications for Parkinson's Disease

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2019 Jun;14(2):173-187. doi: 10.1007/s11481-018-9808-3. Epub 2018 Sep 5.


Increasing the function of residual dopaminergic neurons in the nigra of PD patients is an important area of research as it may eventually compensate the loss. Although tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the dopamine (DA) biosynthesis pathway, there are no effective drugs/molecules to upregulate TH and increase the production of DA in nigral dopaminergic neurons. This study underlines the importance of aspirin in stimulating the expression of TH and increasing the level of DA in dopaminergic neurons. At low doses, aspirin increased the expression of TH and the production of DA in mouse MN9D dopaminergic neuronal cells. Accordingly, oral administration of aspirin increased the expression of TH in the nigra and upregulated the level of DA in striatum of normal C57/BL6 mice and aged A53T α-syn transgenic mice. Oral aspirin also improved locomotor activities of normal mice and A53T transgenic mice. While investigating mechanisms, we found the presence of cAMP response element (CRE) in the promoter of TH gene and the rapid induction of cAMP response element binding (CREB) activation by aspirin in dopaminergic neuronal cells. Aspirin treatment also increased the level of phospho-CREB in the nigra of C57/BL6 mice. The abrogation of aspirin-induced expression of TH by siRNA knockdown of CREB and the recruitment of CREB to the TH gene promoter by aspirin suggest that aspirin stimulates the transcription of TH in dopaminergic neurons via CREB. These results highlight a new property of aspirin in stimulating the TH-DA pathway, which may be beneficial in PD patients. Graphical Abstract ᅟ.

Keywords: Aspirin; CREB; Dopamine; Striatum; Substantia nigra pars compacta; Tyrosine hydroxylase.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Aspirin / administration & dosage
  • Aspirin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / biosynthesis
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / genetics
  • Dopamine / biosynthesis*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / drug effects
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / biosynthesis*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • alpha-Synuclein / biosynthesis
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Creb1 protein, mouse
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Snca protein, mouse
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Aspirin
  • Dopamine