Harmer CJ, McTavish SF, Clark L, Goodwin GM, Cowen PJ  Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2001 Feb;154(1):105-11


University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK

RATIONALE: Tyrosine depletion has been shown to reduce dopamine over activity in animal and human investigations. However, the effects on basal dopamine function have not been explored. Such information could establish tyrosine depletion as an effective probe of dopamine function in healthy volunteers and would also have relevance for future therapeutic applications of this manipulation.

OBJECTIVE: The present study investigated the effect of acute tyrosine depletion on dopamine function in healthy volunteers using a combination of neuroendocrine, neuropsychological and subjective measures.

METHODS: On one occasion, volunteers received an amino acid drink selectively lacking tyrosine and phenylalanine (TYR-free), whilst on the other they received a balanced (BAL) amino acid drink. Plasma prolactin, amino acid levels and subjective state were monitored over 6 h following the two drinks, and volunteers also completed a battery of tests from the CANTAB, including measures of spatial memory previously found to be sensitive to changes in dopamine function.

RESULTS: Plasma prolactin levels rose following the TYR-free drink relative to the balanced mixture, indicative of decreased dopamine neurotransmission within the hypothalamus. Following the TYR-free drink, volunteers were impaired at spatial recognition memory and spatial working memory. Volunteers also tended to report that they felt less good following the TYR-free than the BAL mixture.

CONCLUSION: Tyrosine depletion in healthy volunteers affected baseline dopamine function on the different measures employed in this study. Tyrosine depletion would thereby seem valuable as a probe of dopamine function in human volunteers. Ratings of depression and other aspects of cognitive function were unaffected, suggesting that this manipulation may be free of significant side effects when used as a treatment for conditions characterised by dopamine over activity, such as acute mania and schizophrenia.Tong ZY, Kingsbury AE, Foster OJ. Up-regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA in a sub-population of A10 dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease. Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2000 Jun 23;79(1-2):45-54.

Parkinson’s Disease Society Brain Research Centre (Brain Bank), Institute of Neurology, London, UK.

Neuronal injury has been consistently found in A10 midbrain dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease (PD). To assess changes in neurotransmitter-related gene transcription, in these neurons in PD, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) mRNA expression was examined in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of seven PD cases and seven control subjects, using in situ hybridization histochemistry (ISHH). In controls, TH mRNA expression was found in both melanised and non-melanised neurons in the VTA. Neither population expressed dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH). Of the melanised neurons, 99% were TH mRNA positive. The level of the TH mRNA signal (expressed as grain density per cell) was similar in the two populations (melanised: 0.129+/-0.004 (mean+/-S.E.M.), n=142 vs. non-melanised: 0.138+/-0.006, n=89, P>0.05, Student’s t-Test). In PD cases there was no significant change in TH mRNA expression in melanised neurons (0.138+/-0.003, n=196), and the proportion of positively labeled melanised neurons was 98%. However, non-melanised neurons showed significantly higher TH mRNA (0.163+/-0.006, n=87) than non-melanised neurons in control subjects (P<0.005) and melanised neurons in the PD cases (P<0.0005). This up-regulation of TH mRNA expression in non-melanised neurons may suggest the existence of a compensatory mechanism at presynaptic level.

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