Nrf2 deficiency potentiates methamphetamine-induced dopaminergic axonal damage and gliosis in the striatum

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Oxidative stress that correlates with damage to nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons and reactive gliosis in the basal ganglia is a hallmark of methamphetamine (METH) toxicity. In this study, we analyzed the protective role of the transcription factor Nrf2 (nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2), a master regulator of redox homeostasis, in METH-induced neurotoxicity. We found that Nrf2 deficiency exacerbated METH-induced damage to dopamine neurons, shown by an increase in loss of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)- and dopamine transporter (DAT)-containing fibers in striatum. Consistent with these effects, Nrf2 deficiency potentiated glial activation, indicated by increased striatal expression of markers for microglia (Mac-1 and Iba-1) and astroglia (GFAP) one day after METH administration. At the same time, Nrf2 inactivation dramatically potentiated the increase in TNFα mRNA and IL-15 protein expression in GFAP+ cells in the striatum. In sharp contrast to the potentiation of striatal damage, Nrf2 deficiency did not affect METH-induced dopaminergic neuron death or expression of glial markers or proinflammatory molecules in the substantia nigra. This study uncovers a new role for Nrf2 in protection against METH-induced inflammatory and oxidative stress and striatal degeneration. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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