Calpain mediated expansion of CD4+ cytotoxic T cells in rodent models of Parkinson's disease

Exp Neurol. 2020 Aug;330:113315. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2020.113315. Epub 2020 Apr 14.


Parkinson's disease (PD), a debilitating progressive degenerative movement disorder associated with loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra (SN), afflicts approximately one million people in the U.S., including a significant number of Veterans. Disease characteristics include tremor, rigidity, postural instability, bradykinesia, and at a cellular level, glial cell activation and Lewy body inclusions in DA neurons. The most potent medical/surgical treatments do not ultimately prevent disease progression. Therefore, new therapies must be developed to halt progression of the disease. While the mechanisms of the degenerative process in PD remain elusive, chronic inflammation, a common factor in many neurodegenerative diseases, has been implicated with associated accumulation of toxic aggregated α-synuclein in neurons. Calpain, a calcium-activated cysteine neutral protease, plays a pivotal role in SN and spinal cord degeneration in PD via its role in α-synuclein aggregation, activation/migration of microglia and T cells, and upregulation of inflammatory processes. Here we report an increased expression of a subset of CD4+ T cells in rodent models of PD, including MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine) mice and DSP-4 [N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine hydrochloride]/6-hydroxydopamine rats, which produced higher levels of perforin and granzyme B - typically found in cytotoxic T cells. Importantly, the CD4+ cytotoxic subtype was attenuated following calpain inhibition in MPTP mice, suggesting that calpain and this distinct CD4+ T cell subset may have critical roles in the inflammatory process, disease progression, and neurodegeneration in PD.

Keywords: CD4+ cytotoxic T cells; Calpain; Granzyme B; MPTP; Parkinson's disease; Perforin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Calpain / immunology*
  • Calpain / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / immunology*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*


  • Calpain