Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common devastating human neurodegenerative disorder and despite intense investigation, no effective therapy is available for PD. Cinnamic acid, a naturally occurring aromatic fatty acid of low toxicity, is a precursor for the synthesis of a huge number of plant substances. This study highlights the neuroprotective effect of cinnamic acid in 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) mouse model of PD. Oral administration of cinnamic acid protected tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) and TH fibers in the striatum of MPTP-insulted mice. Accordingly, oral cinnamic acid also normalized striatal neurotransmitters and improved locomotor activities in MPTP-intoxicated mice. While investigating mechanisms, we found that cinnamic acid induced the activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα), but not PPARβ, in primary mouse astrocytes. Cinnamic acid mediated protection of the nigrostriatal system and locomotor activities in WT and PPARβ (-/-), but not PPARα (-/-) mice from MPTP intoxication suggests that cinnamic acid requires the involvement of PPARα in protecting dopaminergic neurons in this model of PD. This study delineates a new function of cinnamic acid in protecting dopaminergic neurons via PPARα that could be beneficial for PD.
Keywords: Dopamine; MPTP; PPARα; Parkinson’s disease; Tyrosine hydroxylase.