STAT3 protects dopaminergic neurons against degeneration in animal model of Parkinson's disease

Rupert D. Smit, Biswarup Ghosh, Thomas J. Campion, Rachel Stingel, Emily Lavell, Robert Hooper, Xiaoxuan Fan, Jonathan Soboloff, George M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most prevalent disorder of the basal ganglia, propagated by the degeneration of axon terminals within the striatum and subsequent loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (SN). Exposure of environmental neurotoxins and mutations of several mitochondrial and proteasomal genes are primarily responsible. Methods: To determine whether signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) could protect dopaminergic neurons against degeneration, we first screened it in the in vitro capacity using immortalized rat dopaminergic N27 cells under 6-OHDA neurotoxicity. We then evaluated the effectiveness of constitutively active (ca) STAT3 as a neuroprotective agent on N27 cells in a 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) induced rat model of PD and compared it to control animals or animals where AAV/caRheb was expressed in SN. Behavioral outcomes were assessed using rotational and cylinder assays and mitochondrial function using reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. Results: Using flow cytometry, the in vitro analysis determined caSTAT3 significantly decreased dopaminergic neuronal death under 6-OHDA treatment conditions. Importantly, in vivo overexpression of caSTAT3 in SN dopaminergic neurons using AAV-mediated expression demonstrated significant neuroprotection of dopaminergic neurons following 6-OHDA. Both caSTAT3 and caRheb + caSTAT3 co-injection into substantia nigra reduced D-amphetamine-induced rotational behavior and increased ipsilateral forelimb function when compared to control animals. In addition, caSTAT3 decreased mitochondrial ROS production following 6-OHDA induced neurotoxicity. Conclusion: caSTAT3 confers resistance against ROS production in mitochondria of susceptible SN dopaminergic neurons potentially offering a new avenue for treatment against PD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148691
Pages (from-to)148691
JournalBrain Research
Early online dateOct 27 2023
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024


  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopaminergic Neurons/metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents/pharmacology
  • Oxidopamine/toxicity
  • Parkinson Disease/metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reactive Oxygen Species/metabolism
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor/metabolism
  • Substantia Nigra/metabolism


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