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J Neurochem. 1992 Jun;58(6):2296-302.

Effects of handling or immobilization on plasma levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine, catecholamines, and metabolites in rats.

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Clinical Neuroscience Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


In conscious animals, handling and immobilization increase plasma levels of the catecholamines norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine (EPI). This study examined plasma concentrations of endogenous compounds related to catecholamine synthesis and metabolism during and after exposure to these stressors in conscious rats. Plasma levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), NE, EPI, and dopamine (DA), the deaminated catechol metabolites 3,4-dihydroxyphenylglycol (DHPG), and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), and their O-methylated derivatives methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) and homovanillic acid (HVA) were measured using liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection at 1, 3, 5, 20, 60, and 120 min of immobilization. By 1 min of immobilization, plasma NE and EPI levels had already reached peak values, and plasma levels of DOPA, DHPG, DOPAC, and MHPG were increased significantly from baseline, whereas plasma DA and HVA levels were unchanged. During the remainder of the immobilization period, the increased levels of DOPA, NE, and EPI were maintained, whereas levels of the metabolites progressively increased. In animals immobilized briefly (5 min), elevated concentrations of the metabolites persisted after release from the restraint, whereas DOPA and catecholamine levels returned to baseline. Gentle handling for 1 min also significantly increased plasma levels of DOPA, NE, EPI, and the NE metabolites DHPG and MHPG, without increasing levels of DA or HVA. The results show that in conscious rats, immobilization or even gentle handling rapidly increases plasma levels of catecholamines, the catecholamine precursor DOPA, and metabolites of NE and DA, indicating rapid increases in the synthesis, release, reuptake, and metabolism of catecholamines.

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