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J Chem Neuroanat. 2009 Dec;38(4):241-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2009.08.004. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Non-dopaminergic neurons partly expressing dopaminergic phenotype: distribution in the brain, development and functional significance.

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Institute of Developmental Biology RAS, Institute of Normal Physiology RAMS, Moscow, Russia.


Besides the dopaminergic (DA-ergic) neurons possessing the whole set of enzymes of DA synthesis from l-tyrosine and the DA membrane transporter (DAT), the neurons partly expressing the DA-ergic phenotype have been first discovered two decades ago. Most of the neurons express individual enzymes of DA synthesis, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) or aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) and lack the DAT. A list of the neurons partly expressing the DA-ergic phenotype is not restricted to so-called monoenzymatic neurons, e.g. it includes some neurons co-expressing both enzymes of DA synthesis but lacking the DAT. In contrast to true DA-ergic neurons, monoenzymatic neurons and bienzymatic non-dopaminergic neurons lack the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) that raises a question about the mechanisms of storing and release of their final synthetic products. Monoenzymatic neurons are widely distributed all through the brain in adulthood being in some brain regions even more numerous than DA-ergic neurons. Individual enzymes of DA synthesis are expressed in these neurons continuously or transiently in norm or under certain physiological conditions. Monoenzymatic neurons, particularly those expressing TH, appear to be even more numerous and more widely distributed in the brain during ontogenesis than in adulthood. Most populations of monoenzymatic TH neurons decrease in number or even disappear by puberty. Functional significance of monoenzymatic neurons remained uncertain for a long time after their discovery. Nevertheless, it has been shown that most monoenzymatic TH neurons and AADC neurons are capable to produce l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) from l-tyrosine and DA from L-DOPA, respectively. L-DOPA produced in monoenzymatic TH neurons is assumed to play a role of a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator acting on target neurons via catecholamine receptors. Moreover, according to our hypothesis L-DOPA released from monoenzymatic TH neurons is captured by monoenzymatic AADC neurons for DA synthesis. Such cooperative synthesis of DA is considered as a compensatory reaction under a failure of DA-ergic neurons, e.g. in neurodegenerative diseases like hyperprolactinemia and Parkinson's disease.Thus, a substantial number of the brain neurons express partly the DA-ergic phenotype, mostly individual complementary enzymes of DA synthesis, serving to produce DA in cooperation that is supposed to be a compensatory reaction under the failure of DA-ergic neurons.

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