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Parkinson’s Disease
Volume 2011, Article ID 713517, 18 pages
Review Article

Inflammatory Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration in Toxin-Based Models of Parkinson's Disease

Institute of Neuroscience, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1S 5B6

Received 15 October 2010; Accepted 9 December 2010

Academic Editor: Stéphane Hunot

Copyright © 2011 Darcy Litteljohn et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Parkinson's disease (PD) has been associated with exposure to a variety of environmental agents, including pesticides, heavy metals, and organic pollutants; and inflammatory processes appear to constitute a common mechanistic link among these insults. Indeed, toxin exposure has been repeatedly demonstrated to induce the release of oxidative and inflammatory factors from immunocompetent microglia, leading to damage and death of midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons. In particular, proinflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor- and interferon- , which are produced locally within the brain by microglia, have been implicated in the loss of DA neurons in toxin-based models of PD; and mounting evidence suggests a contributory role of the inflammatory enzyme, cyclooxygenase-2. Likewise, immune-activating bacterial and viral agents were reported to have neurodegenerative effects themselves and to augment the deleterious impact of chemical toxins upon DA neurons. The present paper will focus upon the evidence linking microglia and their inflammatory processes to the death of DA neurons following toxin exposure. Particular attention will be devoted to the possibility that environmental toxins can activate microglia, resulting in these cells adopting a “sensitized” state that favors the production of proinflammatory cytokines and damaging oxidative radicals.