Locus coeruleus injury modulates ventral midbrain neuroinflammation during DSS-induced colitis

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Feb 13:2024.02.12.580010. doi: 10.1101/2024.02.12.580010.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by a decades-long prodrome, consisting of a collection of non-motor symptoms that emerges prior to the motor manifestation of the disease. Of these non-motor symptoms, gastrointestinal dysfunction and deficits attributed to central norepinephrine (NE) loss, including mood changes and sleep disturbances, are frequent in the PD population and emerge early in the disease. Evidence is mounting that injury and inflammation in the gut and locus coeruleus (LC), respectively, underlie these symptoms, and the injury of these systems is central to the progression of PD. In this study, we generate a novel two-hit mouse model that captures both features, using dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) to induce gut inflammation and N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine (DSP-4) to lesion the LC. We first confirmed the specificity of DSP-4 for central NE using neurochemical methods and fluorescence light-sheet microscopy of cleared tissue, and established that DSS-induced outcomes in the periphery, including weight loss, gross indices of gut injury and systemic inflammation, the loss of tight junction proteins in the colonic epithelium, and markers of colonic inflammation, were unaffected with DSP-4 pre-administration. We then measured alterations in neuroimmune gene expression in the ventral midbrain in response to DSS treatment alone as well as the extent to which prior LC injury modified this response. In this two-hit model we observed that DSS-induced colitis activates the expression of key cytokines and chemokines in the ventral midbrain only in the presence of LC injury and the typical DSS-associated neuroimmune is blunted by pre-LC lesioning with DSP-4. In all, this study supports the growing appreciation for the LC as neuroprotective against inflammation-induced brain injury and draws attention to the potential for NEergic interventions to exert disease-modifying effects under conditions where peripheral inflammation may compromise ventral midbrain dopaminergic neurons and increase the risk for development of PD.

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