Degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in Parkinsons disease begins from the axonal terminals in the striatum and, then, in retrograde fashion, progresses to the cell bodies in the substantia nigra. Investigation of the dynamics of axonal terminal degeneration may help in the identification of new targets for neuroprotective treatment and be used as a tool for testing potential drugs. We have shown that the degeneration rate of dopaminergic axonal terminals changes over time, and that the striatal dopamine concentration is the most sensitive parameter to the action of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP). This model was validated using neuroprotectors with well-known mechanisms of action: the dopamine transporter inhibitor nomifensine and SEMAX peptide that stimulates the secretion of endogenous neurotrophic factors or acts as an antioxidant. Nomifensine was shown to almost completely protect dopaminergic fibers from the toxic effect of MPTP and maintain the striatal dopamine concentration at the control level. However, SEMAX, slightly but reliably, increased striatal dopamine when administered before MPTP treatment, which indicates that it is more effective as an inductor of endogenous neurotrophic factor secretion rather than as an antioxidant.

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