Age-related changes in glial cells of dopamine midbrain subregions in rhesus monkeys

Nicholas M. Kanaan, Jeffrey H. Kordower, Timothy J. Collier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Aging remains the strongest risk factor for developing Parkinson's disease (PD), and there is selective vulnerability in midbrain dopamine (DA) neuron degeneration in PD. By tracking normal aging-related changes with an emphasis on regional specificity, factors involved in selective vulnerability and resistance to degeneration can be studied. Towards this end, we sought to determine whether age-related changes in microglia and astrocytes in rhesus monkeys are region-specific, suggestive of involvement in regional differences in vulnerability to degeneration that may be relevant to PD pathogenesis. Gliosis in midbrain DA subregions was measured by estimating glia number using unbiased stereology, assessing fluorescence intensity for proteins upregulated during activation, and rating morphology. With normal aging, microglia exhibited increased staining intensity and a shift to more activated morphologies preferentially in the vulnerable substantia nigra-ventral tier (vtSN). Astrocytes did not exhibit age-related changes consistent with an involvement in regional vulnerability in any measure. Our results suggest advancing age is associated with chronic mild inflammation in the vtSN, which may render these DA neurons more vulnerable to degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-952
Number of pages16
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Astrocyte
  • Dopamine neuron
  • Glia
  • Microglia
  • Midbrain
  • Non-human primate
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Rhesus monkey
  • Selective vulnerability
  • Substantia nigra
  • Ventral tegmental area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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