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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999 Apr;143(4):347-57.

Phenylalanine kinetics are associated with tardive dyskinesia in men but not in women.

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Movement Disorders Division, The Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY 10962, USA.



An association between tardive dyskinesia (TD) and severely impaired metabolism of the large neutral amino acid (LNAA), phenylalanine (Phe) was defined in a group of mentally retarded patients. Subsequently, an altered kinetics of Phe was associated with TD in men with schizophrenia based on plasma analyses subsequent to the ingestion of a protein meal.


In the present study, a standardized oral challenge of pure Phe (100 mg/kg in 170 ml orange juice) was administered to psychiatric patients of both sexes (n = 312), with and without TD after an overnight fast. Plasma LNAA levels were assayed both fasting and 2 h subsequent to the ingestion of the challenge. The extent of the increase in plasma Phe levels 2 h following a standardized challenge is determined by the sum of the kinetic processes of plasma absorption, tissue distribution, metabolism and elimination.


The study hypothesis, that TD would be associated with significantly higher post-challenge plasma Phe indices of an absolute plasma Phe level and plasma Phe/LNAA ratio (a brain availability measure), was verified for the study men (n = 209), but not for the study women (n = 103).


The demonstrated altered kinetics of Phe in men with TD indicates a greater availability of Phe to the brain in these men. We suggest that the disorder may be related to the effects of this greater availability. Such effects could be the direct neurotoxic effects of Phe and its metabolites and/or the modulating effects of these compounds on the synthesis of the monoamine neurotransmitters. The fact that TD (Yes/No) group differences in post-challenge plasma Phe indices were not seen for the study women suggests the possibility of a sex difference in the biology of TD that we propose may be reflective of the young age of the study sample.

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