Transcriptional regulation of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons: The full circle of life and death

Interdisciplinary Centre for Neuroscience, Department of Neuroanatomy-Ruprecht-Karls, Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Movement Disorders (Impact Factor: 5.63). 02/2008; 23(3):319-28. DOI: 10.1002/mds.21640
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Since mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons are associated to one of the most prominent human neurodegenerative ailments, Parkinson's disease, the molecular mechanism underlying their development and adult cellular properties has been the subject of intense investigations. Throughout life, transcription factors determine the fate of this neuronal population and control essential processes such as localization in the ventral midbrain, their neurotransmitter phenotype, their target innervations and synapse formation. Studies of transcription factors, such as Nurr1, Pitx3, Engrailed-1/2, and Lmx1a/b, have not only revealed importance of these genes during development, but also roles in the long-term survival and maintenance of these neurons. In this review, we will discuss the function of these transcription factors throughout the life of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons and their value in the study of the disease mechanism.

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    ABSTRACT: Specific vulnerability and degeneration of the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta of the midbrain is the pathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease. A number of transcription factors regulate the birth and development of this set of neurons and some remain constitutively expressed throughout life. These maintenance transcription factors are closely associated with essential neurophysiological functions and are required ultimately for the long-term survival of the midbrain dopaminergic neurons. The current review describes the role of two such factors, Nurr1 and engrailed, in differentiation, maturation, and in normal physiological functions including acquisition of neurotransmitter identity. The review will also elucidate the relationship of these factors with life, vulnerability, degeneration and death of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in the context of Parkinson's disease.
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May 19, 2014