Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the loss of dopamine (DA)-containing neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc). The symptoms are resting tremor, slowness of movement, rigidity and postural instability. Evidence that an imbalance between dopaminergic and cholinergic transmission takes place within the striatum led to the utilization of DA precursors, DA receptor agonists and anticholinergic drugs in the symptomatic therapy of PD. However, upon disease progression the therapy becomes less effective and debilitating effects such as dyskinesias and motor fluctuations appear. Hence, the need for the development of alternative therapeutic strategies has emerged. Several observations in different experimental models of PD suggest that blockade of excitatory amino acid transmission exerts antiparkinsonian effects. In particular, recent studies have focused on metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). Drugs acting on group I and II mGluRs have indeed been proven useful in ameliorating the parkinsonian symptoms in animal models of PD and therefore might represent promising therapeutic targets. This beneficial effect could be due to the reduction of both glutamatergic and cholinergic transmission. A novel target for drugs acting on mGluRs in PD therapy might be represented by striatal cholinergic interneurons. Indeed, the activation of mGluR2, highly expressed on this cell type, is able to reduce calcium-dependent plateau potentials by interfering with somato-dendritic N-type calcium channel activity, in turn reducing ACh release in the striatum. Similarly, the blockade of both group I mGluR subtypes reduces cholinergic interneuron excitability, and decreases striatal ACh release. Thus, targeting mGluRs located onto cholinergic interneurons might result in a beneficial pharmacological effect in the parkinsonian state.
- Cholinergic interneurons
- Metabotropic glutamate receptors
- Parkinson's disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Biochemistry