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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Neuronal source of plasma dihydroxyphenylalanine.

The source and significance of plasma levels of dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), the precursor of the endogenous catecholamines, have been unknown. We measured arterial and venous plasma DOPA concentrations in healthy subjects at rest, patients who had undergone regional sympathectomies or were undergoing general anesthesia, and subjects during procedures (tilt, oral clonidine, or iv isoproterenol, yohimbine, trimethaphan, or diazepam) known to affect plasma norepinephrine levels. We also measured plasma DOPA in laboratory animals during anesthesia, after adrenalectomy, or after administration of alpha-methyl-para-tyrosine, which competitively inhibits tyrosine hydroxylase, the intraneuronal enzyme catalyzing the rate-limiting step in catecholamine biosynthesis. In virtually all healthy subjects there was an arteriovenous increment in plasma DOPA (mean increase, 32%; P less than 0.001), whereas in sympathectomized patients there was not (mean decrease, 16%; P less than 0.001 compared with healthy subjects). Except for small decreases after clonidine treatment, none of the above procedures affected plasma DOPA levels. Plasma DOPA decreased during general anesthesia and returned to baseline upon reversal of the anesthesia. Adrenalectomy had no effect on plasma DOPA. alpha-Methyl-para-tyrosine decreased plasma DOPA by 62% (P less than 0.01). The results support the suggestion that DOPA can pass across sympathetic neuronal membranes to reach the general circulation. If so, then the regional rate of appearance of DOPA in plasma may be related to the regional rate of tyrosine hydroxylation. Conversely, DOPA taken up from the circulation may provide a source for catecholamine biosynthesis in tissues devoid of tyrosine hydroxylase.[1]


  1. Neuronal source of plasma dihydroxyphenylalanine. Goldstein, D.S., Udelsman, R., Eisenhofer, G., Stull, R., Keiser, H.R., Kopin, I.J. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1987) [Pubmed]
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