Changes of Dopamine and Tyrosine Hydroxylase Levels in the Brain of Germ-free Mice

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Department of Gerontology, Huashan Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai 200040, China

2 Department of Anesthesiology, Eye & ENT Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai 200031, China



Background: Dopamine (DA) is one of the most important catecholamine neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. The degeneration and deletion of dopaminergic neurons are closely linked to Parkinson's disease (PD) and other psychiatric or neurological diseases. Several studies have been suggesting that intestinal microorganisms are associated with the occurrence of central nervous diseases, including diseases that are closely related to dopaminergic neurons. However, the intestinal microorganisms regulation of dopaminergic neurons in the brain is largely unknown.

Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the hypothetical differences of DA and its synthase tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression in different parts of the brain of germ free (GF) mice.

Materials and Methods: Several studies in recent years have shown that commensal intestinal microbiota promotes changes in DA receptor expression, DA levels, and affects this monoamine turnover. Germ free (GF) and specific pathogen free (SPF) C57b/L male mice were used to analyze TH mRNA and expression levels, and DA levels in the frontal cortex, hippocampus, striatum, and cerebellum, using real time PCR, western blotting, and ELISA tools.

Results: Compared with SPF mice, the TH mRNA levels were decreased in the cerebellum of GF mice, while the TH protein expression was tended to increase in the hippocampus, and conversely showed significant decrease in the striatum. The average optical density (AOD) of TH immunoreactive nerve fibers and the number of axons in striatum of mice in GF group were significantly lower than that in SPF group. Compared with SPF mice, the DA concentration in the hippocampus, striatum and frontal cortex of GF mice was decreased in GF mice.

Conclusion: The changes of DA and its synthase TH in the brain of GF mice showed that the absence of conventional intestinal microbiota had certain regulatory effects on central dopaminergic nervous system, which is considered helpful for studying the effect of commensal intestinal flora on diseases related to impaired dopaminergic nerve system.


Main Subjects