Systemic exposure to proteasome inhibitors causes a progressive model of Parkinson's disease

Kevin St P. McNaught, Daniel P. Perl, Anna Liisa Brownell, C. Warren Olanow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

461 Scopus citations


Environmental toxins have been implicated in the etiology of Parkinson's disease. Recent findings of defects in the ubiquitin-proteasome system in hereditary and sporadic forms of the illness suggest that environmental proteasome inhibitors are candidate PD-inducing toxins. Here, we systemically injected six doses of naturally occurring (epoxomicin) or synthetic (Z-lle-Glu(OtBu)-Ala-Leu-al [PSI]) proteasome inhibitors into adult rats over a period of 2 weeks. After a latency of 1 to 2 weeks, animals developed progressive parkinsonism with bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, and an abnormal posture, which improved with apomorphine treatment. Positron emission tomography demonstrated reduced carbon-11-labeled 2β-carbomethoxy-3β-(4- fluorophenyl)tropane (CFT) binding to dopaminergic nerve terminals in the striatum, indicative of degeneration of the nigrostriatal pathway. Postmortem analyses showed striatal dopamine depletion and dopaminergic cell death with apoptosis and inflammation in the substantia nigra pars compacta. In addition, neurodegeneration occurred in the locus coeruleus, dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, and the nucleus basalis of Meynert. At neurodegenerative sites, intracytoplasmic, eosinophilic, α-synuclein/ubiquitin-containing, inclusions resembling Lewy bodies were present in some of the remaining neurons. This animal model induced by proteasome inhibitors closely recapitulates key features of PD and may be valuable in studying etiopathogenic mechanisms and putative neuroprotective therapies for the illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004


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