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Brain Res. 2009 Jan 9;1247:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.09.088. Epub 2008 Oct 14.

Valproic acid regulates catecholaminergic pathways by concentration-dependent threshold effects on TH mRNA synthesis and degradation.

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Division of Newborn Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York 10595, USA.


The spectrum of neurological conditions and psychiatric disorders affected by valproic acid (VPA) ranges from control of seizure and mood disorders to migraine, neuropathic pain, and even congenital malformations and autism. While widely used clinically, the mechanism(s) of action of VPA is not completely understood. Emerging evidence indicates that brain noradrenergic systems contribute to the symptoms of mood disorders and may involve regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression, the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. We previously showed that the structurally related short chain fatty acid sodium butyrate (SB) induces TH transcription and alters TH mRNA stability in PC12 cells. The present study was undertaken to determine whether the branched short chain fatty acid VPA could also regulate TH gene expression in vitro. Similar to SB, VPA induced TH transcription at all concentrations tested. VPA-stimulated transcription was significantly attenuated by introducing point mutations in either the canonical cAMP- or in the butyrate-response elements of the TH promoter; or by co-expression of dominant-negative forms of CREB. As with SB, increasing concentrations of VPA demonstrated opposing effects on TH mRNA and protein abundance: elevation of both at low (0.1 mM) but attenuation at concentrations higher than 0.5 mM. This concentration-dependence is consistent with a novel and previously unrecognized cellular/molecular drug regulatory step at the level of TH mRNA stability. Thus, the therapeutic efficacy of VPA might be related to its ability to regulate TH mRNA and protein levels, and thereby central catecholaminergic-dependent behavioral pathways.

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