Dopamine-producing brain cells, or neurons, in the midbrain are of major interest in biomedical research. This is because degeneration of these neurons located in a brain area called the substantia nigra is the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. In this article researchers have found two transcription factors - proteins involved in converting DNA into RNA - that are important in maintaining the normal function of dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra. These transcription factors are called FOXA1 and FOXA2. Deleting FOXA1 and FOXA2 decreased the production of the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase, which catalyses the synthesis of dopamine in these neurons. In the absence of these two transcription factors, the transmission of dopamine was also reduced in the striatum - an area of the brain that receives projections from the dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra. Furthermore, the bursting pattern of electrical activity of the dopamine-producing neurons was also reduced when the two transcription factors were deleted. Together these results suggest that FOXA1 and FOXA2 transcription factors are important for the normal function of dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra.
Read the full paper here: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/35/E4929.long