Giselle M. Petzinger

Assistant Professor of Research
Department of Neurology, Keck School of Medicine
Department of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy
The George and MaryLou Boone Center for Parkinson's Disease Research

Giselle M. Petzinger

Research Images

PET imaging of mouse striatum using 18-F fallypride ligand for dopamine D2 receptor. Mouse was lesioned with MPTP neurotoxin. PET imaging of mouse striatum using 18-F fallypride ligand for dopamine D2 receptor. Mouse was lesioned with MPTP neurotoxin and exercised for 6 weeks prior to imaging.Golgy stained medium spiny neuron from the mouse striatumBiocytin labeled neuron from the rat striatum.

Research Overview

The general research interest in the lab is on Parkinson's Disease, with the overall goal of understanding the interactions between dopaminergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission in the basal ganglia. The lab uses both the MPTP-lesioned mouse and non-human primate model. Behavioral studies include examination of both motor and non-motor features in animals using a variety of animal behavior assessments (including open-field, rotarod, tail-suspension, sucrose preference). One primary focus of the lab has been to understand the mechanisms underlying activity dependent neuroplasticity in the injured basal ganglia and specifically how exercise effects the interaction between dopamine signaling and glutamatergic receptor expression in the striatum. Using a variety of molecular biology techniques, we are demonstrating that high-intensity exercise does alter dopamine signaling. Our findings include alterations in the biosynthetic pathway of dopamine and mechanisms involved in dopamine handling and release. These findings have been complemented by work carried out in collaboration with Dr. Angelo Nacca, from the Department of Radiology, and School of Engineering, Dr. Richard Leahy, in developing new radio-isotopes for micro-PET imaging in rodents, and humans. Preminary studies using the novel dopamine receptor D2 ligand for PET 18-F fallypride has shown exercise-induced increase in the dopamine D2 receptor in our MPTP mouse model. In addition, the lab is interested in activity dependent plasticity effects on glutamatergic expression within the striatum. Our focus has been predominantly on AMPA receptor subtype of glutamate receptor family, given its role in modulating the majority of fast excitatory neurotransmission. Using complementary techniques in molecular biology with neurophysiology (collaboration with Dr. John Walsh), we are demonstrating alterations in glutamate receptor expression, and changes in neuronal excitability using whole cell voltage clamp methodology in striatal tissue slices of MPTP + exercise mice. Work is ongoing to better understand alterations in protein expression that modulate AMPA receptor trafficking and expression in the medium spiny neurons of the striatum of the MPTP + exercise mouse. These proteins include PSD-95, CaMKII, PICK1, GRIP-ABP. We are also interested in examining morphological changes induced during activity dependent neuroplasticity, such as exercise-induced changes in spine morphology within the MPTP-lesioned mouse model. One project in the lab is to understand how changes in glutamate neurotransmission may relate to changes in spine morphology.

Contact Information

Mailing Address Department of Neurology
1333 San Pablo St
MCA 243 9153 HSC
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Office Location HSC MCA 243B
Office Phone (323) 442-1057
Lab Location HSC MCA 244
Lab Phone (323) 442-3069
Fax (323) 442-1055
Office Location HSC MCA 243B


  • Columbia University, New York, Fellow, 1993-1995
  • Yale University, New Haven, Postdoc, 1992
  • Yale University, New Haven, Residency, 1990-1992
  • USC, Los Angeles, M.D. 1988
  • University of California, Davis, B.Sc., 1984

Selected Publications

  • Wu AD, Petzinger GM, Lin CH, Kung M, Fisher B. (2007) Asymmetric corticomotor excitability correlations in early Parkinson's disease. Mov Disord. 22(11):1587-1593. PubMed
  • Petzinger, G.M., Walsh, J.P., Akopian, G., Hogg, E., Abernathy, A., Arevalo, P., Turnquist, P., Vuckovic, M., Fisher, B.E., Togasaki, D.M., Jakowec, M.W. (2007) Effects of treadmill exercise on dopaminergic transmission in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine-lesioned mouse model of basal ganglia injury. J Neurosci. 27(20):5291-300. PubMed Link
  • Wu, A.D., Petzinger, G.M., Lin, C.H., Kung, M., Fisher, B.(2007) Asymmetric corticomotor excitability correlations in early Parkinson's disease. Mov Disord. 22(11):1587-93. PubMed
  • Wirdefeldt, K., Gatz, M., Bakaysa, S.L., Fiske, A., Flensburg, M., Petzinger, G.M., Widner, H., Lew, M.F., Welsh, M, Pedersen, N.L. (2007) Complete ascertainment of Parkinson disease in the Swedish Twin Registry. Neurobiol Aging. PubMed
  • Petzinger, G.M., Fisher, B., Hogg, E., Abernathy, A., Arevalo, P., Nixon, K., Jakowec, M.W. (2006) Behavioral motor recovery in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine-lesioned squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus): changes in striatal dopamine and expression of tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter proteins.  J Neurosci Res.83(2):332-47. PubMed Link
  • Shakil, S.S., Holmer, H.K., Moore, C., Abernathy, A.T., Jakowec, M.W., Petzinger, G.M., Meshul, C.K. (2005) High and low responders to novelty show differential effects in striatal glutamate. Synapse. 58(3):200-7. PubMed Link