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Transporter of Toxic Molecules Damages Neurons

Last Updated: May 11, 2009.

A protein that transports toxic molecules in the brain plays an important role in the neurodegeneration that occurs due to Parkinson's disease and methamphetamine abuse, according to a study published online April 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

MONDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- A protein that transports toxic molecules in the brain plays an important role in the neurodegeneration that occurs due to Parkinson's disease and methamphetamine abuse, according to a study published online April 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mei Cui, Ph.D., from the University of Rochester in New York, and colleagues inhibited and deleted the organic cation transporter 3 (Oct3) to examine its role in the transport of toxic molecules in the brains of mice.

The researchers found that Oct3 was primarily expressed by nigrostriatal astrocytes adjacent to midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Using a mouse model of Parkinson's disease where nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons undergo degeneration due to the toxic molecule MPTP, they found that Oct3 was necessary for the release of the toxic organic MPP+ from astrocytes, where it was then taken up into dopaminergic neurons. Lack of Oct3 protected dopaminergic neurons from damage. Oct3 was also important in removing excess extracellular dopamine induced by methamphetamine and protecting striatal dopaminergic neurons from damage, the authors note.

"These results may have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the mechanism of cell death in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases and may open new avenues for neuroprotective intervention," Cui and colleagues conclude.

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