Journal of neurochemistry

The significance of homovanillic acid and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid concentrations in human lumbar cerebrospinal fluid.

PMID 3572399


The concentrations of the acidic dopamine (DA) catabolites homovanillic acid (HVA) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) measured in human CSF are supposed to reflect the "turnover" of DA in the brain. The notion of "turnover" is, however, not synonymous with impulse nerve activity in the dopaminergic systems. Significant amounts of DOPAC and HVA could, indeed, be demonstrated in brain structures wherein dopaminergic innervation has not been documented. It must also be noted that DA is not only a neurotransmitter itself, but also a precursor of norepinephrine and epinephrine. Furthermore, in lumbar CSF, levels of biogenic amine catabolites partially reflect metabolism in the spinal cord and may have limited relevance to neurotransmission in the brain. To elucidate these points further, we determined the concentrations of DOPAC and HVA in 22 areas of six human brains and eight levels of six human spinal cords. The data were correlated with the concentration of DA. Quantitative determinations were done using HPLC with electrochemical detection, after solvent and ion-pair extraction. In this study, significant amounts of both DOPAC and HVA were demonstrated in brain structures not previously associated with dopaminergic innervation. The relatively lower DA concentration in these structures suggests that in these regions, the DOPAC and HVA concentrations are unrelated to dopaminergic neurotransmission. The possible role of capillary walls and glial cells in the catabolism of DA must be further evaluated. The demonstration of DOPAC and HVA in the spinal cord is another argument against the hypothesis that CSF levels of HVA and DOPAC reflect closely the activity of the dopaminergic systems in the brain.