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Life Sci. 2001 May 25;69(1):87-99.

Catecholamines in human saliva.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego Medical Center, 92103, USA.


Catecholamines are readily detectable in human saliva but their origin is unclear. Norepinephrine (NE) was stable in saliva stored at 4 degrees for 2 hours but 11 +/- 3% degraded after storage at 25 degrees for 1 hour. We intravenously infused 3H-NE into humans and measured levels of 3H-NE and its metabolites in both saliva and forearm venous plasma (a site whose plasma NE levels reflect both local uptake and release of NE). 3H-NE levels in saliva continued to rise for 1 hour even though forearm plasma levels had plateaued by 5 min. By 65 min into the infusion the ratio of 3H-NE:non-radioactive NE was similar in saliva and forearm venous plasma. The ratio of NE:epinephrine (E) was similar in saliva and forearm venous plasma at all time points. Chewing induced salivation, and at least tripled the amount of NE, E and 3H-NE released into saliva per minute, but decreased their concentration in saliva by as much as one half. Saliva NE level was unaltered after 15 min of standing but was increased by 31% after 1 hour of upright posture. Our data imply that the NE present in human saliva comes from both the bloodstream and from salivary sympathetic nerves. The finding that diffusion of blood NE into saliva takes roughly 1 hour to complete suggests that NE in saliva is a poor index of acute changes in sympathetic activity.

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