BACKGROUND: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by the selective loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (SN), resulting in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia. Although the etiology is unknown, insight into the disease process comes from the dopamine (DA) derivative, 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), which produces PD-like symptoms. Studies show that 6-OHDA activates stress pathways, such as the unfolded protein response (UPR), triggers mitochondrial release of cytochrome-c, and activates caspases, such as caspase-3. Because the BH3-only protein, Puma (p53-upregulated mediator of apoptosis), is activated in response to UPR, it is thought to be a link between cell stress and apoptosis.
RESULTS: To test the hypothesis that Puma serves such a role in 6-OHDA-mediated cell death, we compared the response of dopaminergic neurons from wild-type and Puma-null mice to 6-OHDA. Results indicate that Puma is required for 6-OHDA-induced cell death, in primary dissociated midbrain cultures as well as in vivo. In these cultures, 6-OHDA-induced DNA damage and p53 were required for 6-OHDA-induced cell death. In contrast, while 6-OHDA led to upregulation of UPR markers, loss of ATF3 did not protect against 6-OHDA.
CONCLUSIONS: Together, our results indicate that 6-OHDA-induced upregulation of Puma and cell death are independent of UPR. Instead, p53 and DNA damage repair pathways mediate 6-OHDA-induced toxicity.