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Essays Biochem. 1995;30:15-35.

Tyrosine hydroxylase: human isoforms, structure and regulation in physiology and pathology.

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Institute for Comprehensive Medical Science, Fujita Health University, Aichi, Japan.


TH is a tetrahydrobiopterin-requiring, iron-containing monooxygenase. It catalyses the conversion of L-tyrosine to L-dopa, which is the first, rate-limiting step in the biosynthesis of catecholamines (dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline), the central and sympathetic neurotransmitters and adrenomedullary hormones. The cofactor of TH is tetrahydrobiopterin, which is synthesized from GTP in three steps. The TH gene consists of 14 exons only in humans and 13 exons in animals. Human TH exists in four isoforms (hTH1-4) that are produced by alternative mRNA splicing from a single gene. A single mRNA and protein corresponding to hTH1 exists in non-primates. Monkey TH exists in two isoforms, corresponding to hTH1 and hTH2. TH activity is regulated in the short term by feedback inhibition of catecholamines in competition with tetrahydrobiopterin, and by activation and deactivation due to phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, mainly at Ser-19 and Ser-40 of hTH1. The multiple TH isoforms in humans and monkeys have additional phosphorylation, resulting in more subtle regulation. In long-term regulation under stress conditions, TH protein is induced. CRE and AP1 in the 5' flanking region of the TH gene may be the main functional elements for TH gene expression. TH may be closely related to the pathogenesis of neurological diseases, such as dystonia and Parkinson's disease, psychiatric diseases, such as affective disorders and schizophrenia, as well as cardiovascular diseases. The TH gene may prove useful in gene therapy to compensate for decreased levels of catecholamines in neurological diseases, for example, for supplementation of dopamine in Parkinson's disease.

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