The substantia nigra is an important brain nucleus involved in the expression of movement disorders and seizures. The two most common movement disorders affecting the substantia nigra, Parkinson's disease and Tourette syndrome, show gender differences and age-related onset. To assess the substrates for the gender and age specificity of substantia nigra-related disorders, we determined the functional properties of the substantia nigra γ-aminobutyric acid (GABAA) system along its anterior-posterior axis, using localized microinfusions of muscimol (a GABAA agonist) and susceptibility to motor seizures in rats. In the substantia nigra, there are sex-specific differences in the topographic segregation and functionality of GABAA systems. In mature male rats there are two distinct regions mediating opposite effects on seizures; in female rats there is only one region that can affect seizures. In the neonatal period, the presence of circulating testosterone is essential for the development of a substantia nigra region that exerts proconvulsant effects throughout the rat's life, a unique feature of the male substantia nigra. The final maturation of the substantia nigra occurs in the peripubertal period, and is in part regulated by testosterone as well. The recognition of the existence of distinct sex- and age-specific substantia nigra features can be translated into new cures of disorders affecting the substantia nigra.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology