Biological effects of pramipexole on dopaminergic neuron-associated genes: Relevance to neuroprotection

Tianhong Pan, Wenjie Xie, Joseph Jankovic, Weidong Le

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Pramipexole (PRX) is a non-ergot dopamine (DA) D2/D3 receptor agonist. Experimental studies have provided evidence that PRX may exert neuroprotective effects on the nigro-striatal system. Recent studies have demonstrated a slower decline of DAT density in Parkinson's disease patients treated with PRX as measured by SPECT. The aim of this study is to determine whether PRX has direct biological effects on DAergic neuron-associated genes expression, including DAT, VMAT2, and Nurr1. The human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells were treated with PRX for various time periods and harvested to measure the mRNA and protein products of these genes. Treatment with PRX at 10 μM significantly increased DAT mRNA levels by 54-130% in 4-8 h, VMAT2 mRNA levels by 34% in 4 h, and Nurr1 mRNA levels by 31-39% in 2-4 h, which was the earliest induction among these three genes. The protein levels of DAT, VMAT2, and Nurr1 were markedly increased after PRX treatment, among which the increase of Nurr1 protein level was the highest at first 2 h treatment of PRX. Nafadotride, a D3 DA receptor antagonist, blocked the increase of Nurr1 gene expression induced by PRX, while eticlopride, a D2 DA receptor antagonist, didn't show this effect. Our findings that PRX has biological regulatory effects on DAergic neuron-associated genes may explain both the slower decline of imaged DAT and the neuroprotective effect of PRX. Furthermore, our results suggest that the induction of Nurr1 gene expression by PRX may be mediated by D3 DA receptor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-109
Number of pages4
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 29 2005


  • DA receptor agonist
  • DAT
  • Nurr1
  • PD
  • VMAT2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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