Determinants of Selective Vulnerability of Dopamine Neurons in Parkinson's Disease

E. Zampese, D. J. Galtieri, P. T. Schumacker, D. J. Surmeier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Parkinson's disease (PD) shows regionally selective neuropathology, and several mechanisms have been proposed to explain what makes a few neuronal populations particularly vulnerable to the disease. This review discusses the main hypotheses for this selective vulnerability with a focus on dopamine (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, whose loss determines the main motor symptoms of PD: their neurotransmitter, DA, itself; their morphology, especially their long and highly branched axon; and their physiological phenotype coupled to a large influx of Ca2+ due to CaV1.3 channels engaging in their pacemaker activity. Interestingly, all these mechanisms seem to converge on mitochondria dysfunction, as it will be described. Understanding the causes of this specific vulnerability is the key to design better therapeutic strategies against the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Behavioral Neuroscience
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Publication series

NameHandbook of Behavioral Neuroscience
ISSN (Print)1569-7339


  • Parkinson's disease
  • calcium
  • dopamine neurons
  • mitochondria
  • oxidative stress
  • vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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