CNR - Institute of Neuroscience CNR
Institute of Neuroscience


Behavioural characterization of mutant mice as model of Parkinson's disease


Our research group is specialized in behavioural characterization of motor, sensorimotor and olfactory deficits in rodent model of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Animal models of PD differ substantially from the human condition with regard to onset of degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons which occurs rapidly subsequent to a toxic insult in animal models and in multi-factorial, slow and progressive manner in humans. Recently, experimental evidences have showed that Engrailed genes (En-1 and En-2) play a crucial role for the survival of mesencephalic DA neurons. Specifically heterozygous null for En-1 and homozygous null for En-2 (En-1+/-; En-2-/-) mice displayed a specific progressive loss of DA neurons in the SNc. These mice are normal at birth but progressively loose DA neurons of SNc in a period of about thee month until reaching a maximal loss of DA neurons of about 60%. In order to investigate in these mutant mice if the loss of DA neurons produces changes in motor behaviour similar to PD symptoms we have utilized a battery of tests that evaluate spontaneous motor activity, strength of limb grasping and motor performance and coordination.

Some results

We have observed in these mutant (En-1+/-;En-2-/-) mice a fine motor skills and strength altered at 4 months and worsened at 8 months respect to the control mice (En-1+/+;En-2-/-), assessed by the inverted grid test; whereas at both age they did not show deficits in motor performance during the beam-walking test. Moreover, in the pole test it was observed a significant deficit in motor coordination in mutant (En-1+/-;En-2-/-) mice respect to control mice (En-1+/+;En-2-/-) that became progressively worse with age. These results suggest that although mutant (En-1+/-;En-2-/-) mice did not show deficits in walking performance, they demonstrated deficits in motor coordination, in particular during performances that required sophisticates movements of coordination.


  • Prof. G.U. Corsini, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pisa.


PI photo

Annalisa Pinna

Contact information

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email  +39 070 6758662

Participating staff

Micaela Morelli

Silvia Pontis

Elisabetta Tronci