2020 Volume 53 Issue 6 Pages 139-146
Microglial activation is a component of neurodegenerative pathology. Here, we examine whether activated microglia participate in age-related dopaminergic (DA) cell death in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) of the zitter (zi/zi) rat, a mutant characterized by deletion of the attractin gene. Confocal microscopy with double-immunohistochemical staining revealed activated microglia-formed cell-clusters surrounding DA neurons in the SNc from 2 weeks after birth. An immunoelectron microscopic study showed that the cytoplasm of activated microglia usually contains phagosome-like vacuoles and lamellar inclusions. Expression levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) were increased in the midbrain of 2-month-old zi/zi rats. Chronic treatment with the anti-inflammatory agent minocycline altered the morphology of the microglia, reduced cluster formation by the microglia, and attenuated DA cell death in the SNc, and reduced the expression of IL-1β in the midbrain. These results indicate that activated microglia, at least in part and especially at the initial phase, contribute to DA cell death in the SNc of the zi/zi rat.