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Abstract

Primary cilia (PC) are microtubule-based protrusions of the cell membrane transducing molecular signals during brain development. Here, we report that PC are required for maintenance of Substantia nigra (SN) dopaminergic (DA) neurons highly vulnerable in Parkinson's disease (PD). Targeted blockage of ciliogenesis in differentiated DA neurons impaired striato-nigral integrity in adult mice. The relative number of SN DA neurons displaying a typical auto-inhibition of spontaneous activity in response to dopamine was elevated under control metabolic conditions, but not under metabolic stress. Strikingly, in the absence of PC, the remaining SN DA neurons were less vulnerable to the PD neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridin (MPTP). Our data indicate conserved PC-dependent neuroadaptive responses to DA lesions in the striatum. Moreover, PC control the integrity and dopamine response of a subtype of SN DA neurons. These results reinforce the critical role of PC as sensors of metabolic stress in PD and other disorders of the dopamine system.