Vascular endothelial growth factor B (VEGF-B) is up-regulated and exogenous VEGF-B is neuroprotective in a culture model of Parkinson's disease

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Abstract. Parkinson's disease (PD) results from the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and the consequent deficit of dopamine released in the striatum. Current oral dopamine replacement or surgical therapies do not address the underlying issue of neurodegeneration, they neither slow nor halt disease. Neurotrophic factors have shown preclinical promise, but the choice of an appropriate growth factor as well as the delivery has proven difficult. In this study, we used a rotenone rat midbrain culture model to identify genes that are changed after addition of the neurotoxin. (1) We challenged rat midbrain cultures with rotenone (20 nM), a pesticide that has been shown to be toxic for dopaminergic neurons and that has been a well-characterized model of PD. A gene chip array analysis demonstrated that several genes were up-regulated after the rotenone treatment. Interestingly transcriptional activation of vascular endothelial growth factor B (VEGF-B) was evident, while vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) levels remained unaltered. The results from the gene chip array experiment were verified with real time PCR and semi-quantitative western analysis using-actin as the internal standard. (2) We have also found evidence that exogenously applied VEGF-B performed as a neuroprotective agent facilitating neuron survival in an even more severe rotenone culture model of PD (40 nM rotenone). VEGF-B has very recently been added to the list of trophic factors that reduce effects of neurodegeneration, as was shown in an in vivo model of motor neuron degeneration, while lacking potential adverse angiogenic activity. The data of an in vivo protective effect on motor neurons taken together with the presented results demonstrate that VEGF-B is a new candidate trophic factor distinct from the GDNF family of trophic factors. VEGF-B is activated by neurodegenerative challenges to the midbrain, and exogenous application of VEGF-B has a neuroprotective effect in a culture model of PD. Strengthening this natural protective response by either adding exogenous VEGF-B or up-regulating the endogenous VEGF-B levels may have the potential to be a disease modifying therapy for PD. We conclude that the growth factor VEGF-B can improve neuronal survival in a culture model of PD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number49
JournalMolecular Neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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