Depletion of nigrostriatal and forebrain tyrosine hydroxylase by S-adenosylmethionine: a model that may explain the occurrence of depression in Parkinson's disease

Life Sci. 1997;61(5):495-502. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(97)00409-8.


The loss of nigrostriatal tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine and dopaminergic neurons are the major pathology of Parkinson's disease (PD). These catecholaminergic changes are responsible for the symptoms of tremor, hypokinesia and rigidity. Depression is also a major symptom in PD, but the cause is unknown. The impairments of catecholaminergic fibers in the frontal lobe may be involved, because the frontal lobe of the cerebrum is involved in the regulation of mood, and decreased catecholaminergic activity in the frontal lobe is related to behavioral depression. The changes that damage the nigrostriatal dopamine system and induce motor impairments may also damage the forebrain catecholamine fibers and induce depression. It means that manipulations that damage the nigrostriatum (NS) and induce parkinsonism may also deplete TH in the frontal cortex. Such an effect would suggests a basis for the depression seen in PD. The injection of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM), the biological methyl donor, into the brain of rats damaged the NS, depleted TH and caused tremor and hypokinesia. SAM may interfere also with the forebrain TH, which may help to explain the occurrence of depression in PD. Experiments were designed to test such a hypothesis. The results showed that SAM caused a loss of immunoreactive nerve fibers and it decreased the intensity of TH-immunoreactivity (IR) in the frontal cortex. These changes were accompanied with the loss of cells and the depletion of TH-IR from nerve fibers in the SN and the caudate nucleus. Other studies showed that SAM depletes DA and since SAM induces PD-like changes the results may be relevant to the co-occurrence of PD symptoms and depression. A single biological manipulation may impair the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons as well as the frontal cortex catecholaminergic fibers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / enzymology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Male
  • Parkinson Disease / enzymology*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Prosencephalon / drug effects
  • Prosencephalon / enzymology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / pharmacology*
  • Substantia Nigra / drug effects
  • Substantia Nigra / enzymology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism*


  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase