This study aimed to investigate the potential beneficial effects of estrogen on nigrostriatal dopaminergic neuron degeneration in postmenopausal drug-naïve Parkinson’s disease (PD). Based on the ratio of lifetime estrogen exposure length to the total length of the estrogen exposure and deprivation period, postmenopausal women with drug-naïve PD were divided into low (n = 31) and high (n = 31) estrogen exposure ratio groups. We performed a comparative analysis of the striatal dopamine transporter (DAT) availability between the two groups. Additionally, we evaluated the longitudinal change in the levodopa equivalent dose per month using a linear mixed model. The motor symptoms were more severe in the low estrogen exposure ratio group than in the high estrogen exposure ratio group (P = 0.016). PD patients in the two groups had significantly lower DAT availability on all striatal sub-regions except for ventral striatum than did age- and sex-matched normal controls. When comparing the two groups, PD patients in the low estrogen exposure ratio group exhibited significantly lower DAT availability in the posterior putamen (P = 0.024) and in the ventral putamen (P = 0.036) than those in the high estrogen exposure ratio group. The estimated monthly levodopa equivalent dose changes were 10.9 in the low estrogen exposure ratio group and 7.1 in the high estrogen exposure ratio group with a significant interaction between the two groups (P = 0.001). These in vivo data provide indirect evidence showing that estrogen may elicit a beneficial effect on nigrostriatal dopamine neurons in PD.
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