Department of Neuro- and Psychopharmacology


Research profile
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by movement disorders (bradykinesia, muscle rigidity, resting tremor) and co-existing non-motor symptoms, including depression. The disease may be accompanied by action tremor. The pathomechanism of this disease is poorly understood, the diagnosis is possible only in the late, irreversible stages, and the available symptomatic therapies are not effective and cause undesirable side effects.
Our research is focused on neurodegeneration of dopamine neurons, the development of compensatory processes, and mechanisms responsible for the major symptoms of PD and essential tremor. Another priority is the search for markers of different stages of PD and potential new drug targets.
We work on animal models involving dopamine (6-OHDA, MPP +, lactacystin, pesticides) and glial (fluorocitrate) cell damage, inhibition of their function (reserpine, tetrabenazine), dopamine receptors blockade (neuroleptics) or action tremor induction (harmaline). The course of degenerative processes and their consequences are analyzed at behavioral (disturbances of motility and coordination, tremor, catalepsy, depressive behavior), histological (immunohistochemistry, stereology), neurotransmitter (microdialysis, HPLC), receptor and transporter (autoradiography), molecular (proteins and mRNA) and metabolic (mitochondrial activity, energy substrates evaluation) levels.
The above models are used to examine the mechanism of action and the effectiveness of potential drugs affecting, among others, dopamine, adenosine, glutamate and nitrergic neurotransmission.


Research methods

  • stereotaxic brain operations in rats and intracerebral administration of compounds
  • behavioral methods:
    - automatic measurement of locomotor activity, action tremor and other forms of rat motor behavior in actometers
    - automatic measurement of asymmetric behavior in rats following unilateral damage of the dopamine system (rotameters)
    - observation of rats’ behavior: catalepsy test (a model of akinesia, bradykinesia), measurement of tremulous jaw movements (a model of parkinsonian tremor), cylinder test (motor coordination test), forced swim test (pro and antidepressant behavior model)
  • histological methods: histological and immunohistochemical staining of brain sections, light microscopy, stereology
  •  biochemical methods: HPLC, brain microdialysis, autoradiography of receptors and transporters, measurement of energy substrates concentration in tissues and blood plasma
  • molecular methods: Western blot, in situ hybridization, analysis of the mitochondrial respiratory complexes activity
  • computer imaging of brain sections, densitometry


The most important discoveries of the last 3 years
We have demonstrated that the dopamine system lesion in rats can model depression associated with Parkinson's disease, and can be used to evaluate the efficacy and side effects of antidepressants as well as their interaction with L-DOPA.
It has been found, that changes in the protein complex composition and performance of the mitochondrial respiratory chain supercomplexes as well as the fluidity of mitochondrial membranes, observed following the dopamine system lesion in rats, might play an important role in the degenerative process and its compensation.




More publications

  • “Control of Motor Function by Adenosine A2A Receptors in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease”

    chapter in the book:

    Pinna A., Wardas J., Domenici M. R., Popoli P., Cossu G. and Morelli M. “Control of Motor Function by Adenosine A2A Receptors in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease” In: Blum D, Lopes LV, eds., "Adenosine Receptors in Neurodegenerative Diseases", San Diego: Academic Press, 2017: 188-214. 

  • Adenosine A2A receptors: Localization and Function.

    Simola N. and WARDAS J.: Adenosine A2A receptors: Localization and Function. (chapter 1)

    In: “The Adenosinergic System. A non-dopaminergic target in Parkinson’s disease” Eds. Morelli M, Simola N., Wardas J. Springer International Publishing Switzerland, 2015, pp. 1-25; Current Topics in Neurotoxicity, vol. 10 (Series Eds. Kostrzewa R., Archer T.).

More publications
  • , Katarzyna Kuter, PhD
    NCN grant, OPUS 14 [2018-08-03  -  2021-08-02]
    Title: "How microglia-astrocyte interaction affects neuronal functioning 
    in the dopaminergic system. Analysis of protective potential of drugs changing the glial phenotype"
  • Motor thalamic nuclei as a potential therapeutic target for adenosine in parkinsonian and essential tremor; behavioural, neurochemical and molecular studies in rats, Jadwiga Wardas, PhD
    1.    Research project objectives/Research hypothesis Essential (ET) and parkinsonian (PD) tremors are relatively frequent neurological disorders in humans. Since mechanisms underlying  these tremors are only poorly understood, current pharmacological therapies of these disturbances are highly insufficient. Therefore, there is an urgent need to search for these mechanisms and find out drugs which would be effective at the clinic.The ventral motor thalamus seems to be a brain structure crucial to relay and integrate impulses related to both PD tremor and ET. This region receives glutamatergic inputs from the cerebellum and GABAergic projections from the basal ganglia and therefore seems to be important for convergence of the cerebellar and basal ganglia informations.  The present project is devoted to examine whether adenosine and its receptors may be a target for future pharmacotherapy of ET and/or PD tremor. Since adenosine receptors (A1 and A2A) are present in neuronal networks of the ventral thalamic nuclei, the project is focused at examination of a modulatory role of adenosine receptor ligands on ET and PD tremor in animal models and a contribution of the cerebello-thalamic vs basal ganglia-thalamic circuits in these phenomena.  
  • , Katarzyna Kuter, PhD
    “MOBILNOSC PLUS” scholarship sponsored by Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.
    Title: „Protective role of astrocytes in the process of neurodegeneration of dopaminergic cells and during functional compensation of this process. Analysis of function and architecture of mitochondrial oxphos complexes and supercomplexes in animal models of early Morbus Parkinson.”
    Performed during three 6 month visits at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany in group of Prof. Norbert A. Dencher.
  • NCN grant, OPUS 3, Katarzyna Kuter, PhD
    OPUS 3 grant nr 2012/05/B/NZ4/02599 financed by National Science Centre (NCN).
    Title: „The role of astrocytes and cellular metabolism in functional compensation of degeneration of dopaminergic system in threats brain. Analysis of expression of AMPK and energy sensing proteins in aspect of Parkinson's disease.”
    Performed in the Institute of Pharmacology, Polish Academy of Sciences – project leader.
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