Aberrant somatic calcium channel function in cNurr1 and LRRK2-G2019S mice

NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2023 Apr 7;9(1):56. doi: 10.1038/s41531-023-00500-5.


In Parkinson's disease (PD), axons of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) degenerate before their cell bodies. Calcium influx during pacemaker firing might contribute to neuronal loss, but it is not known if dysfunctions of voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) occur in DA neurons somata and axon terminals. We investigated T-type and L-type VGCCs in SNc-DA neurons of two mouse models of PD: mice with a deletion of the Nurr1 gene in DA neurons from an adult age (cNurr1 mice), and mice bearing the G2019S mutation in the gene coding for LRRK2 (G2019S mice). Adult cNurr1 mice displayed motor and DA deficits, while middle-aged G2019S mice did not. The number and morphology of SNc-DA neurons, most of their intrinsic membrane properties and pacemaker firing were unaltered in cNurr1 and G2019S mice compared to their control and wild-type littermates. L-type VGCCs contributed to the pacemaker firing of SNc-DA neurons in G2019S mice, but not in control, wild-type, and cNurr1 mice. In cNurr1 mice, but not G2019S mice, the contribution of T-type VGCCs to the pacemaker firing of SNc-DA neurons was reduced, and somatic dopamine-D2 autoreceptors desensitized more. Altered contribution of L-type and T-type VGCCs to the pacemaker firing was not observed in the presence of a LRRK2 kinase inhibitor in G2019S mice, and in the presence of a flavonoid with antioxidant activity in G2019S and cNurr1 mice. The role of L-type and T-type VGCCs in controlling dopamine release from axon terminals in the striatum was unaltered in cNurr1 and G2019S mice. Our findings uncover opposite changes, linked to oxidative stress, in the function of two VGCCs in DA neurons somata, but not axon terminals, in two different experimental PD models.