Progesterone neuroprotection of striatal dopamine (DA) in male mice lesioned with 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) was previously reported when administered before MPTP or an hour after. A dose of MPTP to induce a partial lesion was used to model early stages or prodromal Parkinson. We hypothesized that brain DA can be restored by progesterone administered early (24 h) or later (5 days) after MPTP.
Male mice received 4 injections of MPTP (8 mg/kg) and progesterone (8 mg/kg) once daily for 5 days started 24 h or 5 days after MPTP. The lesion decreased striatal DA and its metabolites but not serotonin contents. MPTP mice treated with progesterone starting 24 h but not 5 days after MPTP had higher striatal DA and its metabolites content than vehicle-treated MPTP mice. Striatal DA transporter (DAT) and vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) specific binding decreased in lesioned mice and were corrected with progesterone treatment starting 24 h but not 5 days after MPTP. Striatal glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) levels, a marker of activated astrocytes, were elevated by the MPTP lesion and were corrected with progesterone treatment starting 24 h after MPTP. Striatal brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels were decreased by the MPTP lesion and were prevented by progesterone treatments whereas no change of Akt, GSK3β, ERK1 and 2 and their phosphorylated forms were observed.
Thus, progesterone administered after MPTP in mice protected dopaminergic neurons through modulation of neuroinflammation and BDNF. In humans, progesterone could possibly be used as a disease-modifying drug in prodromal Parkinson.