Animal models of Parkinson's disease: an empirical comparison with the phenomenology of the disease in man

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 1996;103(8-9):987-1041. doi: 10.1007/BF01291788.


Animal models are an important aid in experimental medical science because they enable one to study the pathogenetic mechanisms and the therapeutic principles of treating the functional disturbances (symptoms) of human diseases. Once the causative mechanism is understood, animal models are also helpful in the development of therapeutic approaches exploiting this understanding. On the basis of experimental and clinical findings. Parkinson's disease (PD) became the first neurological disease to be treated palliatively by neurotransmitter replacement therapy. The pathological hallmark of PD is a specific degeneration of nigral and other pigmented brainstem nuclei, with a characteristic inclusion, the Lewy body, in remaining nerve cells. There is now a lot of evidence that degeneration of the dopaminergic nigral neurones and the resulting striatal dopamine-deficiency syndrome are responsible for its classic motor symptoms akinesia and bradykinesia. PD is one of many human diseases which do not appear to have spontaneously arisen in animals. The characteristic features of the disease can however be more or less faithfully imitated in animals through the administration of various neurotoxic agents and drugs disturbing the dopaminergic neurotransmission. The cause of chronic nigral cell death in PD and the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. The partial elucidation of the processes underlie the selective action of neurotoxic substances such as 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) or 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP), has however revealed possible molecular mechanisms that give rise to neuronal death. Accordingly, hypotheses concerning the mechanisms of these neurotoxines have been related to the pathogenesis of nigral cell death in PD. The present contribution starts out by describing some of the clinical, pathological and neurochemical phenomena of PD. The currently most important animal models (e.g. the reserpine model, neuroleptic-induced catalepsy, tremor models, experimentally-induced degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons with 6-OHDA, methamphetamine, MPTP, MPP+, tetrahydroisoquinolines, beta-carbolines, and iron) critically reviewed next, and are compared with the characteristic features of the disease in man.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurotoxins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / chemically induced
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / physiopathology*


  • Neurotoxins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Dopamine