Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. Greg A. Gerhardt


A theoretical post-translational processing model of the proprotein form of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) likely produces three biologically active peptides. The three prospective peptides formed are 5, 11, and 17 amino acid peptides, entitled dopamine neuron stimulating peptide -5 (DNSP-5), -11 (DNSP-11), and -17 (DNSP-17), respectively. The DNSPs were hypothesized to increase dopaminergic neuron function because of their relationship to GDNF: a molecule with established neurotrophic actions on dopaminergic neurons. The DNSPs have the potential to provide a therapeutic molecule similar to GDNF, but with increased ease of delivery and improved bioavailability.

Neurochemical effects of DNSPs were examined in the nigrostriatal pathway of normal Fischer 344 rats, and DNSP-11 was found to be the most effective in increasing dopamine neurochemical function. Striatal microdialysis, four weeks after a single intranigral administration of DNSP-11, showed significant increases in the baseline concentrations of dopamine, DOPAC, and HVA. In addition, both, potassium and d-amphetamine-evoked dopamine overflow were significantly increased.

DNSP-11 was delivered intranigrally to aged Fischer 344 rats to examine DNSP-11’s ability to improve dopaminergic function in aged dopamine neurons. DNSP-11 affected striatal dopaminergic function 28 days after treatment by decreasing baseline concentrations of dopamine and evoked dopamine release.

Investigation of DNSP-11 continued, using two models of neurotoxin-induced dopamine neuron loss that model cell loss associated with Parkinson’s disease. The neuroprotective properties of DNSP-11 were evaluated by delivering DNSP-11 prior to the neurotoxic insult. DNSP-11 treatment was unable to protect dopaminergic neurons, but significantly increased dopamine metabolism. In a model of severe dopamine neuron loss, DNSP-11 treatment significantly improved apomorphine-induced rotation behavior, indicative of alterations in the function of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons. Subsequent examination of dopamine content within the SN revealed significant increases in dopamine and DOPAC levels by DNSP-11.

Taken together, DNSP-11 treatments modified dopamine neurochemistry in all investigated rodent models. The observed long-term alterations of dopamine neurochemistry by DNSP-11 and subsequent behavioral changes support a potential use for DNSP-11 as a therapeutic for dopaminergic cell loss. Increased dopaminergic function by DNSP-11 is evidence for the novel concept that peptides contained within the prodomain of trophic factors can have neurotrophic actions.

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