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J Neurochem. 2013 Jul;126(1):70-81. doi: 10.1111/jnc.12287. Epub 2013 May 22.

The role of tetrahydrobiopterin and catecholamines in the developmental regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase level in the brain.

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  • 1Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yokohama, Japan.


Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) is a rate-limiting enzyme for dopamine synthesis and requires tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) as an essential cofactor. BH4 deficiency leads to the loss of TH protein in the brain, although the underlying mechanism is poorly understood. To give insight into the role of BH4 in the developmental regulation of TH protein level, in this study, we investigated the effects of acute and subchronic administrations of BH4 or dopa on the TH protein content in BH4-deficient mice lacking sepiapterin reductase. We found that BH4 administration persistently elevated the BH4 and dopamine levels in the brain and fully restored the loss of TH protein caused by the BH4 deficiency in infants. On the other hand, dopa administration less persistently increased the dopamine content and only partially but significantly restored the TH protein level in infant BH4-deficient mice. We also found that the effects of BH4 or dopa administration on the TH protein content were attenuated in young adulthood. Our data demonstrate that BH4 and catecholamines are required for the post-natal augmentation of TH protein in the brain, and suggest that BH4 availability in early post-natal period is critical for the developmental regulation of TH protein level.

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