Metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors have been considered potential targets for the therapy of experimental parkinsonism. One hypothetical advantage associated with the use of mGlu receptor ligands is the lack of the adverse effects typically induced by ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists, such as sedation, ataxia, and severe learning impairment. Low doses of the mGlu2/3 metabotropic glutamate receptor agonist, LY379268 (0.25-3 mg/kg, i.p.) increased glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) mRNA and protein levels in the mouse brain, as assessed by in situ hybridization, real-time PCR, immunoblotting, and immunohistochemistry. This increase was prominent in the striatum, but was also observed in the cerebral cortex. GDNF mRNA levels peaked at 3 h and declined afterwards, whereas GDNF protein levels progressively increased from 24 to 72 h following LY379268 injection. The action of LY379268 was abrogated by the mGlu2/3 receptor antagonist, LY341495 (1 mg/kg, i.p.), and was lost in mGlu3 receptor knockout mice, but not in mGlu2 receptor knockout mice. In pure cultures of striatal neurons, the increase in GDNF induced by LY379268 required the activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathways, as shown by the use of specific inhibitors of the two pathways. Both in vivo and in vitro studies led to the conclusion that neurons were the only source of GDNF in response to mGlu3 receptor activation. Remarkably, acute or repeated injections of LY379268 at doses that enhanced striatal GDNF levels (0.25 or 3 mg/kg, i.p.) were highly protective against nigro-striatal damage induced by 1- methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine in mice, as assessed by stereological counting of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in the pars compacta of the substantia nigra. We speculate that selective mGlu3 receptor agonists or enhancers are potential candidates as neuroprotective agents in Parkinson's disease, and their use might circumvent the limitations associated with the administration of exogenous GDNF.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)