Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc). Levodopa (L-Dopa), the current main treatment for PD, reduces PD symptoms by partially replacing dopamine, but it does not slow neurodegeneration. Recent studies have evidenced that neuroinflammatory processes contribute to the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the SNc under cytopathic conditions, while other lines of inquiry have implicated phosphorylation of collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2) as a causal factor in axonal retraction after neural injury. We recently reported on the therapeutic effect of lanthionine ketimine ester (LKE) which associates with CRMP2 following axonal injury in the spinal cord. In the present study, we report that LKE protects SNc dopaminergic neurons after 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) challenge, a common model for PD, and reduces the number of activated microglia proximal to the damaged SNc. The results also show that MPTP-induced motor impairment was suppressed in LKE treatment. Furthermore, the results show that LKE inhibits the elevation of CRMP2 phosphorylation in dopaminergic neurons in the SNc after MPTP injection. These data suggest that modification of CRMP2 phosphorylation and suppression of microglial activation with LKE administration may represent a novel strategy for slowing progress of pathological processes in PD.
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