Converging evidence demonstrates an important role for gangliosides in brain function and neurodegenerative diseases. Exogenous GM1 is broadly neuroprotective, including in rodent, feline, and primate models of Parkinson's disease, and has shown positive effects in clinical trials. We and others have shown that inhibition of the ganglioside biosynthetic enzyme GD3 synthase (GD3S) increases endogenous levels GM1 ganglioside. We recently reported that targeted deletion of St8sia1, the gene that codes for GD3S, prevents motor impairments and significantly attenuates neurodegeneration induced by 1-methy-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP). The current study investigated the effects of GD3S inhibition on the neurotoxicity and parkinsonism induced by MPTP. Mice were injected intrastriatally with a lentiviral-vector-mediated shRNA construct targeting GD3S (shGD3S) or a scrambled-sequence control (scrRNA). An MPTP regimen of 18 mg/kg x 5 days reduced tyrosine-hydroxylase-positive neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta of scrRNA-treated mice by nearly two-thirds. In mice treated with shGD3S the MPTP-induced lesion was approximately half that size. MPTP induced bradykinesia and deficits in fine motor skills in mice treated with scrRNA. These deficits were absent in shGD3S-treated mice. These results suggest that inhibition of GD3S protects against the nigrostriatal damage, bradykinesia, and fine-motor-skill deficits associated with MPTP administration.
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