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This article is the author's final published version in npj Parkinson's Disease, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2024, Article number 83.

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Mitochondrial dysfunction and reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation within the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) are central drivers of dopaminergic (DA) neuron death in Parkinson's disease (PD). Guanylyl cyclases and their second messenger cyclic (c)GMP support mitochondrial function, protecting against ROS and promoting cell survival in several tissues. However, the role of the guanylyl cyclase-cGMP axis in defining the vulnerability of DA neurons in the SNpc in PD remains unclear, in part due to the challenge of manipulating cGMP levels selectively in midbrain DA neurons. In that context, guanylyl cyclase C (GUCY2C), a receptor primarily expressed by intestinal epithelial cells, was discovered recently in midbrain DA neurons. Here, we demonstrate that GUCY2C promotes mitochondrial function, reducing oxidative stress and protecting DA neurons from degeneration in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl- 1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) mouse model. GUCY2C is overexpressed in the SNpc in PD patients and in mice treated with MPTP, possibly reflecting a protective response to oxidative stress. Moreover, cGMP signaling protects against oxidative stress, mitochondrial impairment, and cell death in cultured DA neurons. These observations reveal a previously unexpected role for the GUCY2C-cGMP signaling axis in controlling mitochondrial dysfunction and toxicity in SNpc DA neurons, highlighting the therapeutic potential of targeting DA neuron GUCY2C to prevent neurodegeneration in PD.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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