The neurotoxin MPTP causes degeneration of specific nucleus A8, A9 and A10 dopaminergic neurons in the mouse

Dwight C. German, Eric L. Nelson, Chang Lin Liang, Samuel G. Speciale, Christopher M. Sinton, Patricia K. Sonsalla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


The neurotoxin MPTP has been used to create an animal model of Parkinson's disease in the mouse, in part, because it causes a significant loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (nucleus A9). The purpose of the present study was to determine whether MPTP also causes degeneration of midbrain dopaminergic neurons in nuclei A8 and A10 in the mouse, as occurs in humans with Parkinson's disease. Two commonly used strains of mice were used: FVB/N and C57BL/6. MPTP was administered in cumulative doses of 50-300 mg/kg. Seven days later, dopamine concentrations were measured in the striatum using high performance liquid chromatography, and midbrain dopaminergic neurons were identified using an antibody against tyrosine hydroxylase. The cell locations were mapped with a computer imaging system. In the FVB/N strain, there was a dose-dependent decrease in striatal dopamine concentrations. Although the highest dose (300 mg/kg) caused an 86% reduction in striatal dopamine concentrations, there was only a moderate and non-significant loss of midbrain dopaminergic neurons. In the C57BL/6 strain, however, a high dose of MPTP (240 mg/kg) caused a significant reduction in both striatal dopamine concentrations (95%), and midbrain dopaminergic cells; 69% loss of nucleus A8 cells, 75% loss of nucleus A9 cells, and in nucleus A10 subnuclei there was 42% loss of ventral tegmental area cells, 55% loss of interfascicular nucleus cells, and no loss of cells in the central linear nucleus. These data (1) provide further evidence for differential susceptibility to MPTP toxicity among different mouse strains, (2) indicate that a significant depletion of striatal dopamine is not necessarily due to degeneration of midbrain dopaminergic neurons, (3) provide the precise locations of midbrain dopaminergic cells that are vulnerable to MPTP, which will aid future studies that seek to determine the mechanism/s by which MPTP selectively destroys only certain midbrain dopaminergic neurons, and (4) indicate that MPTP produces midbrain dopaminergic neuronal degeneration in the same nuclei in the C57BL16 mouse that degenerate in humans with Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-312
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996


  • Computer-imaging
  • Immunohistochemical staining
  • MPP
  • MPTP
  • Midbrain dopaminergic neurons
  • Mouse
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology


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