In the present study, the in vivo neuroprotective effects of melatonin, as an antioxidant, were assessed in Sprague-Dawley rats with a unilateral lesion of substantia nigra (SN) caused by a stereotaxic injection of neurotoxin, 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+). When expressed as a percentage ratio of lesioned to intact side, increased lipid peroxidation product (malondialdehyde, MDA, 117% of control) and decreased tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) enzyme activity (60% of control) in SN were observed 4 h after MPP+ lesion. In contrast, however, melatonin treatment prevented MPP+ neurotoxicity by the almost complete recovery of MDA (99% of control) and TH levels (96% of control), indicating the potent antioxidative effects of melatonin. In addition, further reduction of TH enzyme activity (52% of control) was seen 1 week after MPP+ infusion. Continuous (twice a day for 5 days), not acute (4 h) treatment with melatonin produced the partial, but not statistically significant, recovery of TH enzyme activity (71% of control), when sacrificed 1 week after MPP+ lesion. Taken together, the present results support the hypothesis that melatonin may provide the useful therapeutic strategies for the treatment of oxidative stress-induced neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson's disease (PD).
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