Temporal-Spatial Profiling of Pedunculopontine Galanin-Cholinergic Neurons in the Lactacystin Rat Model of Parkinson’s Disease

Research paper by Joanna L. Elson, Rafael Kochaj, Richard Reynolds, Ilse S. Pienaar

Indexed on: 08 Dec '17Published on: 07 Dec '17Published in: Neurotoxicity Research


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is conventionally seen as resulting from single-system neurodegeneration affecting nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons. However, accumulating evidence indicates multi-system degeneration and neurotransmitter deficiencies, including cholinergic neurons which degenerate in a brainstem nucleus, the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN), resulting in motor and cognitive impairments. The neuropeptide galanin can inhibit cholinergic transmission, while being upregulated in degenerating brain regions associated with cognitive decline. Here we determined the temporal-spatial profile of progressive expression of endogenous galanin within degenerating cholinergic neurons, across the rostro-caudal axis of the PPN, by utilizing the lactacystin-induced rat model of PD. First, we show progressive neuronal death affecting nigral dopaminergic and PPN cholinergic neurons, reflecting that seen in PD patients, to facilitate use of this model for assessing the therapeutic potential of bioactive peptides. Next, stereological analyses of the lesioned brain hemisphere found that the number of PPN cholinergic neurons expressing galanin increased by 11%, compared to sham-lesioned controls, and increasing by a further 5% as the neurodegenerative process evolved. Galanin upregulation within cholinergic PPN neurons was most prevalent closest to the intra-nigral lesion site, suggesting that galanin upregulation in such neurons adapt intrinsically to neurodegeneration, to possibly neuroprotect. This is the first report on the extent and pattern of galanin expression in cholinergic neurons across distinct PPN subregions in both the intact rat CNS and lactacystin-lesioned rats. The findings pave the way for future work to target galanin signaling in the PPN, to determine the extent to which upregulated galanin expression could offer a viable treatment strategy for ameliorating PD symptoms associated with cholinergic degeneration.