Toxic Equine Parkinsonism: An Immunohistochemical Study of 10 Horses With Nigropallidal Encephalomalacia

H. T. Chang, W. K. Rumbeiha, J. S. Patterson, Birgit Puschner, A. P. Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Chronic ingestion of yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) or Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens) causes nigropallidal encephalomalacia (NPE) in horses with an abrupt onset of neurologic signs characterized by dystonia of lips and tongue, inability to prehend food, depression, and locomotor deficits. The objectives of this study were to reexamine the pathologic alterations of NPE and to conduct an immunohistochemistry study using antibodies to tyrosine hydroxylase and α-synuclein, to determine whether NPE brains show histopathologic features resembling those in human Parkinson disease. Results confirm that the NPE lesions are located within the substantia nigra pars reticulata, sparing the cell bodies of the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, and in the rostral portion of the globus pallidus, with partial disruption of dopaminergic (tyrosine hydroxylase-positive) fibers passing through the globus pallidus. No abnormal cytoplasmic inclusions like the Lewy bodies of human Parkinson disease were seen in these NPE brains. These findings indicate that equine NPE may serve as a large animal model of environmentally acquired toxic parkinsonism, with clinical phenotype directly attributable to lesions in globus pallidus and substantia nigra pars reticulata rather than to the destruction of dopaminergic neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-402
Number of pages5
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • equine nigropallidal encephalomalacia
  • equine parkinsonism
  • Hallervorden-Spatz
  • synucleinopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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