The potential convergence of NLRP3 inflammasome, potassium, and dopamine mechanisms in Parkinson’s disease

Adrianne F. Pike*, Ildikò Szabò, Robert Veerhuis, Luigi Bubacco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The pathology of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by α-synuclein aggregation, microglia-mediated neuroinflammation, and dopaminergic neurodegeneration in the substantia nigra with collateral striatal dopamine signaling deficiency. Microglial NLRP3 inflammasome activation has been linked independently to each of these facets of PD pathology. The voltage-gated potassium channel Kv1.3, upregulated in microglia by α-synuclein and facilitating potassium efflux, has also been identified as a modulator of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in models of PD. Evidence increasingly suggests that microglial Kv1.3 is mechanistically coupled with NLRP3 inflammasome activation, which is contingent on potassium efflux. Potassium conductance also influences dopamine release from midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Dopamine, in turn, has been shown to inhibit NLRP3 inflammasome activation in microglia. In this review, we provide a literature framework for a hypothesis in which Kv1.3 activity-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation, evoked by stimuli such as α-synuclein, could lead to microglia utilizing dopamine from adjacent dopaminergic neurons to counteract this process and fend off an activated state. If this is the case, a sufficient dopamine supply would ensure that microglia remain under control, but as dopamine is gradually siphoned from the neurons by microglial demand, NLRP3 inflammasome activation and Kv1.3 activity would progressively intensify to promote each of the three major facets of PD pathology: α-synuclein aggregation, microglia-mediated neuroinflammation, and dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Risk factors overlapping to varying degrees to render brain regions susceptible to such a mechanism would include a high density of microglia, an initially sufficient supply of dopamine, and poor insulation of the dopaminergic neurons by myelin.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Journalnpj Parkinson's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

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