Treadmill exercise activates Nrf2 antioxidant system to protect the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons from MPP+ toxicity

Yi Hsien Tsou, Ching Ting Shih, Cheng Hsin Ching, Jui Yen Huang, Chauying J. Jen, Lung Yu, Yu Min Kuo, Fong Sen Wu, Jih Ing Chuang

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69 Citations (Scopus)


Exercise induces oxidative stress, which may activate adaptive antioxidant responses. Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) plays an important role in the defense of oxidative stress by regulating the expression of antioxidant enzymes, gamma-glutamylcysteine ligase (γGCL) and heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). We investigated whether treadmill exercise protects dopaminergic neurons by regulating the Nrf2 antioxidant system in a 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridine (MPP+)-induced parkinsonian rat model. We found that MPP+ induced early decreases in total glutathione level and Nrf2/γGCLC (catalytic subunit of γGCL) expression, but late upregulation of HO-1 expression in association with loss of nigral dopaminergic neurons and downregulation of tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter expression in the striatum. Treadmill exercise for 4weeks induced upregulation of Nrf2 and γGCLC expression, and also prevented the MPP+-induced downregulation of Nrf2/γGCLC/glutathione, HO-1 upregulation, and nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Moreover, the protective effect of exercise was blocked by the knockdown of Nrf2 using a lentivirus-carried shNrf2 delivery system. These results demonstrate an essential role of Nrf2 in the exercise-mediated protective effect that exercise enhances the nigrostriatal Nrf2 antioxidant defense capacity to protect dopaminergic neurons against the MPP+-induced toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-62
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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