Chronic selegiline administration transiently decreases tyrosine hydroxylase activity and mRNA in the rat nigrostriatal pathway

S. L. Vrana, A. J. Azzaro, K. E. Vrana

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22 Scopus citations


Selegiline, a selective monoamine oxidase type B inhibitor, is beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. However, this beneficial effect is only transient, and patients must ultimately resort to treatment with standard levodopa therapy. We studied the effects of chronic selegiline treatment on the rat nigrostriatal pathway, to elucidate a neurochemical correlate for this adaptive clinical response. Selegiline treatment for 3, 7, 14, or 21 days decreased tyrosine hydroxylase (the enzyme that catalyzes the rate-limiting step in catecholamine biosynthesis) activity in the cell body regions (substantia nigra) of the nigrostriatal pathway. However, tyrosine hydroxylase activity measurements in the major terminal field region (corpus striatum) of the pathway did not correspond to those in the substantia nigra; in the corpus striatum, tyrosine hydroxylase activity was decreased at 3 and 7 days of treatment and recovered by 14 days. We tested whether the decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase activity was mediated by a decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA. Northern blot and RNA dot blot analyses (using a tyrosine hydroxylase-specific cDNA probe) of substantia nigra homogenates revealed a significant decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA at 3, 7, and 14 days of selegiline treatment, compared with controls. Conversely, after 21 days of selegiline, tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA levels were significantly higher (3-fold) than controls; this finding was not reflected in substantia nigra tyrosine hydroxylase activity. The 21-day increase in mRNA may be associated with the rebound in tyrosine hydroxylase activity observed in the corpus striatum. Thus, it is possible that the recovery in tyrosine hydroxylase activity in the corpus striatum is mediated through an increase in tyrosine hydroxylase protein transport from the substantia nigra to the corpus striatum and/or that the tyrosine hydroxylase enzyme exists in a more stabilized state during this period of time. These results demonstrate that monoamine oxidase type B-selective inhibitory doses of selegiline are capable of inducing transient decreases in tyrosine hydroxylase activity and tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA levels. Furthermore, these reversible effects may represent adaptive responses associated with pharmacological tolerance and the transient beneficial actions of this drug in Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-844
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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