Diabetes Causes Dysfunctional Dopamine Neurotransmission Favoring Nigrostriatal Degeneration in Mice

Iara Pérez-Taboada, Samuel Alberquilla, Eduardo D. Martín, Rishi Anand, Stefania Vietti-Michelina, Nchimunya N. Tebeka, James Cantley, Stephanie J. Cragg, Rosario Moratalla, Mario Vallejo (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Numerous studies indicate an association between neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. Although still a matter of debate, growing evidence from epidemiological and animal studies indicate that preexisting diabetes increases the risk to develop Parkinson's disease. However, the mechanisms of such an association are unknown. Objectives: We investigated whether diabetes alters striatal dopamine neurotransmission and assessed the vulnerability of nigrostriatal neurons to neurodegeneration.

Methods: We used streptozotocin-treated and genetically diabetic db/db mice. Expression of oxidative stress and nigrostriatal neuronal markers and levels of dopamine and its metabolites were monitored. Dopamine release and uptake were assessed using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry. 6-Hydroxydopamine was unilaterally injected into the striatum using stereotaxic surgery. Motor performance was scored using specific tests.

Results: Diabetes resulted in oxidative stress and decreased levels of dopamine and its metabolites in the striatum. Levels of proteins regulating dopamine release and uptake, including the dopamine transporter, the Girk2 potassium channel, the vesicular monoamine transporter 2, and the presynaptic vesicle protein synaptobrevin-2, were decreased in diabetic mice. Electrically evoked levels of extracellular dopamine in the striatum were enhanced, and altered dopamine uptake was observed. Striatal microinjections of a subthreshold dose of the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine in diabetic mice, insufficient to cause motor alterations in nondiabetic animals, resulted in motor impairment, higher loss of striatal dopaminergic axons, and decreased neuronal cell bodies in the substantia nigra.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that diabetes promotes striatal oxidative stress, alters dopamine neurotransmission, and increases vulnerability to neurodegenerative damage leading to motor impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1636-1648
Number of pages13
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number9
Early online date15 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • dopamine
  • hyperglycemia
  • nigrostriatal neurons
  • oxidative stress
  • presynaptic proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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