Dopamine Synthesis by Non-Dopaminergic Neurons in the Arcuate Nucleus of Rat Fetuses

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The aim of the present work was to verify the hypothesis that non-dopaminergic neurons expressing individual complementary dopamine synthesis enzymes can perform the co-located synthesis of dopamine. According to this hypothesis, neurons expressing tyrosine hydroxylase use L-tyrosine for the synthesis of L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA), which then enters neurons expressing aromatic amino acid decarboxylase, which converts L-DOPA to dopamine. Experiments were performed using the mediobasal hypothalamus of rat fetuses, which mostly contains single-enzyme neurons (>99%) and occasional double-enzyme neurons (<1%). Controls were obtained from the fetal substantia nigra, which is enriched with dopaminergic neurons. High-performance liquid chromatography was used to measure levels of dopamine and L-DOPA in cell extracts and the incubation medium after incubation in the presence and absence of exogenous L-tyrosine. Addition of L-tyrosine to the medium led to increases in the level of synthesis and release of L-DOPA in the mediobasal hypothalamus and substantia nigra. In addition, L-tyrosine increased dopamine synthesis in the substantia nigra and decreased dopamine synthesis in the mediobasal hypothalamus. This regional difference in levels of dopamine synthesis is probably due to inhibition of the uptake of L-DOPA from the intercellular medium by neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus containing aromatic amino acid decarboxylase, due to the competitive binding of the L-DOPA transporter by L-tyrosine. Thus, these results provide the first evidence for the co-located synthesis of dopamine by non-dopaminergic neurons expressing single complementary enzymes involved in the synthesis of this neurotransmitter.

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