Oxidative stress and down-regulated trophic factors are involved in the pathogenesis of nigrostriatal dopamine(DA)rgic neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease. Fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9) is a survival factor for various cell types; however, the effect of FGF9 on DA neurons has not been studied. The antioxidant melatonin protects DA neurons against neurotoxicity. We used MPP+ to induce neuron death in vivo and in vitro and investigated the involvement of FGF9 in MPP+ intoxication and melatonin protection. We found that MPP+ in a dose- and time-dependent manner inhibited FGF9 mRNA and protein expression, and caused death in primary cortical neurons. Treating neurons in the substantia nigra and mesencephalic cell cultures with FGF9 protein inhibited the MPP+-induced cell death of DA neurons. Melatonin co-treatment attenuated MPP+-induced FGF9 down-regulation and DA neuronal apoptosis in vivo and in vitro. Co-treating DA neurons with melatonin and FGF9-neutralizing antibody prevented the protective effect of melatonin. In the absence of MPP+, the treatment of FGF9-neutralizing antibody-induced DA neuronal apoptosis whereas FGF9 protein reduced it indicating that endogenous FGF9 is a survival factor for DA neurons. We conclude that MPP+ down-regulates FGF9 expression to cause DA neuron death and that the prevention of FGF9 down-regulation is involved in melatonin-provided neuroprotection.
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