Aged men have a greater incidence of Parkinson's disease (PD) than women. PD is a neurodegenerative condition associated with the loss of dopamine neurons in the nigrostriatal pathway. This study examined the neurotoxic effects of androgens in a dopaminergic cell line (N27 cells) and the downstream signaling pathways activated by androgens. Treatment of N27 cells with testosterone- and dihydrotestosterone-induced mitochondrial dysfunction, protein kinase C (PKC)-δ cleavage, and apoptosis in dopaminergic neuronal cells. Inhibition of caspase-3 prevented the cleavage of PKCδ from the full length element to the catalytic fragment and apoptosis in N27 cells, suggesting that androgen-induced apoptosis is mediated by caspase-3-dependent activation of PKCδ. Androgen-induced apoptosis may be specific to dopamine neurons as evidenced by a lack of testosterone-induced apoptosis in GnRH neurons. These results support a neurotoxic consequence of testosterone on dopaminergic neurons and may provide insight into the gender bias found in PD.
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