Like most neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson disease (PD) has a chronic, slowly progressive course, selective neuronal loss, and a small percentage of familial cases caused by mutations in widely expressed genes. A simplified, reproducible and relevant model system that allows study of progressive neuronal injury would permit us to examine mechanisms of chronic neurodegeneration in PD, and allow us to screen potential neuroprotective agents. Organotypic """"""""slice"""""""" culture models offer major advantages in that they are simplified compared to in vivo models, yet unlike dissociated cell cultures they involve the use of mature neurons, remain viable in culture for months, and maintain substantial intact circuitry and neuronal-glial interactions. We propose to characterize and use such a model to specifically examine mechanisms of neuronal injury in PD. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been proposed as a factor underlying dopaminergic cell loss in PD. There is growing evidence of decreased mitochondrial function and increased oxidative stress in human PD. In a new animal model of PD, systemic infusion of the mitochondrial toxin rotenone, an organic pesticide, causes degeneration of the nigrostriatal pathway that is highly selective, even in the presence of global mitochondrial inhibition. In the current proposal we will: 1) Optimize and characterize a rotenone model of PD in chronic organotypic slice cultures. We present data from preliminary studies demonstrating the successful use of slices containing substantia nigra pars compacta dopaminergic neurons for this purpose. 2) Exploit the unique advantages of this system to investigate the mechanisms of action of mitochondrial inhibition. We will examine the role dopamine itself plays in neuronal vulnerability, and look for evidence of oxidative damage and apoptotic cell death. 3) Investigate the interaction of genetic defects with environmental stressors in PD. We will use transgenic mouse models to examine how rotenone interacts with genetic mutations that produce familial PD. We will study how underlying genetic lesions that affect oxidative stress and apoptosis pathways may predispose cells to damage from exogenous toxins. 4) Test potential neuroprotective agents in a model of chronic neurodegeneration that is highly relevant to PD. The research outlined above is part of a customized five-year plan of training and career development for the Principal Investigator. The proposal includes active mentoring by experienced scientists, access to diverse resources, and an environment uniquely suited to help the PI develop as an independent physician scientist.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Clinical Investigator Award (CIA) (K08)
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NST-2 Subcommittee (NST)
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Emory University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Sherer, Todd B; Richardson, Jason R; Testa, Claudia M et al. (2007) Mechanism of toxicity of pesticides acting at complex I: relevance to environmental etiologies of Parkinson's disease. J Neurochem 100:1469-79
Testa, Claudia M; Sherer, Todd B; Greenamyre, J Timothy (2005) Rotenone induces oxidative stress and dopaminergic neuron damage in organotypic substantia nigra cultures. Brain Res Mol Brain Res 134:109-18