High-frequency stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus selectively reverses dopamine denervation-induced cellular defects in the output structures of the basal ganglia in the rat

Pascal Salin, Christine Manrique, Claude Forni, Lydia Kerkerian-Le Goff
Journal of Neuroscience 2002 June 15, 22 (12): 5137-48
High-frequency stimulation (HFS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) is now recognized as an effective treatment for advanced Parkinson's disease, but the molecular basis of its effects remains unknown. This study examined the effects of unilateral STN HFS (2 hr of continuous stimulation) in intact and hemiparkinsonian awake rats on STN neuron metabolic activity and on neurotransmitter-related gene expression in the basal ganglia, by means of in situ hybridization histochemistry and immunocytochemistry. In both intact and hemiparkinsonian rats, this stimulation was found to induce c-fos protein expression but to decrease cytochrome oxidase subunit I mRNA levels in STN neurons. STN HFS did not affect the dopamine lesion-mediated overexpression of enkephalin mRNA or the decrease in substance P in the ipsilateral striatum. The lesion-induced increases in intraneuronal glutamate decarboxylase 67 kDa isoform (GAD67) mRNA levels on the lesion side were reversed by STN HFS in the substantia nigra, partially antagonized in the entopeduncular nucleus but unaffected in the globus pallidus. The stimulation did not affect neuropeptide or GAD67 mRNA levels in the side contralateral to the dopamine lesion or in intact animals. These data furnish the first evidence that STN HFS decreases the metabolic activity of STN neurons and antagonizes dopamine lesion-mediated cellular defects in the basal ganglia output structures. They provide molecular substrate to the therapeutic effects of this stimulation consistent with the current hypothesis that HFS blocks STN neuron activity. However, the differential impact of STN HFS on the effects of dopamine lesion among structures receiving direct STN inputs suggests that this stimulation may not cause simply interruption of STN outflow.

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