Abstract: The degeneration of nigral dopaminergic neurons is considered the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD), and it is triggered by different factors, including mitochondrial dysfunction, Lewy body accumulation, neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity and metal accumulation. Despite the extensive literature devoted to unravelling the signalling pathways involved in neuronal degeneration, little is known about the functional impairments occurring in these cells during illness progression. Of course, it is not possible to obtain direct information on the properties of the dopaminergic cells in patients. However, several data are available in the literature reporting changes in the function of these cells in PD animal models. In the present manuscript, we focus on dopaminergic neuron functional properties and summarize shared or peculiar features of neuronal dysfunction in different PD animal models at different stages of the disease in an attempt to design a picture of the functional modifications occurring in nigral dopaminergic neurons during disease progression preceding their eventual death.
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