Neuroprotective effects of the dopamine D2/D3 agonist pramipexole against postischemic or methamphetamine-induced degeneration of nigrostriatal neurons

Edward D. Hall, Paula K. Andrus, Jo A. Oostveen, John S. Althaus, Philip F. Von Voigtlander

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131 Scopus citations


We have examined the neuroprotective efficacy of the selective dopamine (DA) D2/D3 receptor agonist pramipexole in two models of nigrostriatal (NS) degeneration. The first involves the delayed (28-day) postischemic retrograde NS degeneration that takes place in gerbils following a 10-min episode of bilateral carotid arterial occlusion-induced forebrain ischemia. In vehicle (40% hydroxypropyl cyclodextrin)-treated male gerbils, there was a 40-45% loss of NS cell bodies in the pars compacta and pars reticulata (TH immunohistochemistry and Cresyl violet histochemistry) by 28 days after ischemia/reperfusion. Daily postischemic oral dosing (1 mg/kg p.o., b.i.d., beginning at 1 h after insult) decreased the 28-day postischemic loss of NS DA neurons by 36% (P < 0.01 vs. vehicle-treated). The effect was specific for dopamine neurons since no significant salvage of hippocampal CA1 neurons was observed. In a second model, pramipexole's effects were examined on methamphetamine-induced (10 mg/kg, i.p. x 4, each 2 h apart) NS degeneration in male Swiss-Webster mice. In vehicle-treated mice, there was a 40% loss of NS neurons by day 5. In contrast, pramipexole dosing (1 mg/kg, p.o., 1 h after the last methamphetamine dose, plus daily) attenuated the NS degeneration from 40% to only 8% (P < 0.00001 vs. vehicle). We postulated that pramipexole acts in both of these models to reduce the elevated DA turnover and the associated elevation in hydroxyl radical production secondary to increased MAO activity that could be responsible for oxidative damage to the NS neurons. Indeed, in the gerbil ischemia model, we documented by HPLC-ECD a 135% postreperfusion increase in DA turnover (DOPAC + HVA/DA) at 5 min after reperfusion. Pramipexole at the 1 mg/kg, p.o., dose level was able to significantly reduce the increased DA turnover, but by only 16%. Thus, it is conceivable that other mechanisms may also contribute to pramipexole's dopaminergic neuroprotection. Based on a preliminary examination of pramipexole's oxidation potential, it appears that the compound may possess significant intrinsic antioxidant properties that might contribute to its neuroprotective effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 2 1996


  • degeneration
  • ischemia
  • metham phetamine
  • neuroprotection
  • nigrostriatal
  • pramipexole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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