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IUBMB Life. 2013 Apr;65(4):323-33. doi: 10.1002/iub.1140. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

The neurobiology of tetrahydrobiopterin biosynthesis: a model for regulation of GTP cyclohydrolase I gene transcription within nigrostriatal dopamine neurons.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


Within the brain, the reduced pteridine cofactor 6R-L-erythro-5,6,7,8-tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is absolutely required for the synthesis of the monoamine (MA) neurotransmitters dopamine (DA), norepinephrine, epinephrine (E), and serotonin (5-HT), the novel gaseous neurotransmitter nitric oxide and the production of yet to be identified 1-O-alkylglycerol-derived lipids. GTP cyclohydrolase I (GTPCH) catalyzes the first and limiting step in the BH4 biosynthetic pathway, which is now thought to involve up to eight different proteins supporting six alternate de novo and two alternate salvage pathways. Gene expression analysis across different regions of the human brain shows the abundance of transcripts coding for all eight of these proteins to be highly correlated with each other and to be enriched within human MA neurons. The potential for multiple routes for BH4 synthesis therefore exists within the human brain. GTPCH expression is particularly heterogeneous across different populations of human and rodent MA-containing neurons, with low expression levels and therefore BH4 being a characteristic of nigrostriatal DA (NSDA) neurons. Basic knowledge of how GCH1 gene transcription is controlled within NSDA neurons may explain the distinctive susceptibility of these neurons to human genetic mutations that result in BH4 deficiency. A model for cyclic adenosine monophosphate-dependent GCH1 transcription is described that involves a unique combination of DNA regulatory sequences and transcription factors. This model proposes that low levels of GCH1 transcription within NSDA neurons are driven by their distinctive physiology, suggesting that pharmacological manipulation of GCH1 gene transcription can be used to modify BH4 levels and therefore DA synthesis in the basal ganglia.

Copyright © 2013 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.

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