Background: Modulation of neurogenesis that acts as an endogenous repair mechanism would have a significant impact on future therapeutic strategies for Parkinson's disease (PD). Several studies demonstrated dopaminergic modulation of neurogenesis in the subventricular zone (SVZ) of the adult brain. Levodopa, the gold standard therapy for PD, causes an increase in homocysteine levels that induces neuronal death via N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. The present study investigated whether elevated homocysteine by levodopa treatment in a parkinsonian model would modulate neurogenesis via NMDA receptor signal cascade and compared the effect of levodopa and pramipexol (PPX) on neurogenic activity. Methodology/Principal Findings: Neurogenesis was assessed in vitro using neural progenitor cells (NPCs) isolated from the SVZ and in vivo with the BrdU-injected animal model of PD using 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. Modulation of homocysteine levels was evaluated using co-cultures of NPCs and astrocytes and PD animals. Immunochemical and Western blot analyses were used to measure neurogenesis and determine the cell death signaling. Levodopa treatment increased release of homocysteine on astrocytes culture media as well as in plasma and brain of PD animals. Increased homocysteine by levodopa led to increased apoptosis of NPCs through the NMDA receptor-dependent the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling pathways. The administration of a NMDA antagonist significantly attenuated apoptotic cell death in levodopa-treated NPCs and markedly increased the number of BrdU-positive cells in the SVZ of levodopa-treated PD animals. Comparative analysis revealed that PPX treatment significantly increased the number of NPCs and BrdU-positive cells in the SVZ of PD animals compared to levodopa treatment. Our present study demonstrated that increased homocysteine by levodopa has a detrimental effect on neurogenesis through NMDA receptor-mediated ERK signaling pathway. Conclusions/Significance: Modulation of levodopa-induced elevated homocysteine by NMDA antagonist or dopamine agonist has a clinical relevance for PD treatment in terms of adult neurogenesis.
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