Neuromelanin in the substantia nigra may be associated with the pathogenesis of nigral cell death in Parkinson's disease. We used synthetic dopamine-melanin (DA-M) as a model compound for neuromelanin and examined its toxic effects on mice cerebellar granule cells and a rat pheochromocytoma cell line (PC12). The DA-M and dopamine-treated cells showed an accumulation of black deposits when examined by light microscopy. Electron microscopy revealed different stages of DA-M phagocytosis, starting with DA-M binding, engulfment of the particles and the formation of phagosomes located in the cytoplasm. Using absorption assays, we found that NaN3 and low temperature inhibit the internalization of DA-M, pointing to an energy-dependent phagocytosis mechanism. These results suggest that neuromelanin can be phagocytised by neuronal cells which may thus be subjected to its toxic effects. These findings may contribute to our understanding of the formation and disposition of neuromelanin and its possible role in the etiology of Parkinson's disease.
- Parkinson's disease