Slow progressive degeneration of nigral dopaminergic neurons in postnatal Engrailed mutant mice. Academic Article uri icon


  • The homeobox transcription factors Engrailed-1 and Engrailed-2 are required for the survival of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in a cell-autonomous and gene-dose-dependent manner. Because of this requirement, the cells die by apoptosis when all four alleles of the Engrailed genes are genetically ablated (En1-/-;En2-/-). In the present study, we show that viable and fertile mice, heterozygous null for Engrailed-1 and homozygous null for Engrailed-2 (En1+/-;En2-/-), have an adult phenotype that resembles key pathological features of Parkinson's disease. Specifically, postnatal mutant mice exhibit a progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra during the first 3 mo of their lives, leading to diminished storage and release of dopamine in the caudate putamen, motor deficits similar to akinesia and bradykinesia, and a lower body weight. This genetic model may provide access to the molecular etiology for Parkinson's disease and could assist in the development of novel treatments for this neurodegenerative disorder.

publication date

  • October 10, 2006