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Unilateral 6-OHDA th-fgfr1(tk-) mouse model supports role of FGFs in PD & effects of nicotine & L-Dopa on spontaneous motor impairments

Unilateral 6-OHDA th-fgfr1(tk-) mouse model supports the role of FGFs in Parkinson’s disease and the effects of nicotine and L-DOPA on spontaneous motor impairments
Open Access

November 2012
Kucinski A, Wersinger S, Stachowiak EK, Radell M, Hesse R, Corso T, Parry M, Bencherif M, Jordan K, Letchworth S, Stachowiak MK


In the developing and adult brain, neurotrophic growth factors support the growth and protection of dopaminergic neuronal systems. Recently, links between impaired neurotrophin support of dopamine (DA) neurons has been described in Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Fibro- blast growth factor (FGF) has a unique association with DA neurons in that FGF signaling is vitally important for the development and protection of adult DA neurons. 

We assessed the role of substantia nigra (SN)-expressed FGFs in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system using a transgenic mouse, th-fgfr1(tk-). 

In these mice, generated by expression of dominant negative FGFR1(TK-) from the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene promoter, reduced FGF signaling results in smaller and less dense adult nigrostriatal DA neurons, similar to what is observed in PD. With unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesions, th-fgfr1(tk-) mice exhibited extensive unilateral nigrostriatal damage with robust spontaneous (non-drug induced) asymmetrical turning and a decreased latency to remain on the accelerating rotarod. 

L-DOPA remains the gold standard for PD therapy despite debilitating hyperkinetic and dyskinetic side effects. The nicotinic acetylcholine system has recently been targeted as an alternative system to combat PD motor symptoms. Nicotine effectively stimulates dopaminergic transmission in the nigrostriatal pathway and mediates movement. 

Using unilaterally lesioned th-fgfr1(tk-) mice, long term (11 day) oral administration of nicotine increased spontaneous bidirectional turning and increased the latency before falling from the accelerating rotarod. In a separate analysis, L-DOPA treatment reversed directionality of rotation and further deepened motor discoordination, suggesting activation of hypersensitive postsynaptic DA receptors in the denervated striata. 

These results in a transgenic model of PD provide insights into the cellular mechanisms underlying L-DOPA and nicotinic therapies and offer further evidence of nicotine’s capacity to facilitate movement and enhance motor coordination in PD.