Life sciences

Regional homovanillic acid production in humans.

PMID 8515683


Peripheral plasma levels of homovanillic acid (HVA), the deaminated and o-methylated metabolite of dopamine, are often used as an indicator of central nervous system dopaminergic activity. Using percutaneously placed catheters, we studied the regional inputs into the plasma HVA pool in 60 healthy volunteers. Veno-arterial differences and organ plasma flows were used to quantify the relative amounts of HVA contributed by various sites into the peripheral circulation. Positive arterio-venous HVA gradients were found in the pulmonary, hepatosplanchnic, skeletal muscle and jugular vessels of the normal volunteers. No HVA increment was found in the coronary sinus. The renal circulation was determined to be the principal site of HVA clearance, extracting 27 nmol/min. The regional contributions of HVA were as follows: lungs 21 nmol/min, hepatosplanchnic organs 3 nmol/min, skeletal muscle 3 nmol/min and the brain 4 nmol/min. The pattern of regional HVA production contrasted with that of the deaminated dopamine metabolite, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, for which the heart was the principal site of production identified. Sixteen patients with chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) and 6 patients with pure autonomic failure (PAF) were also studied to investigate possible effects of sympathetic nervous system overactivity and underactivity on peripheral HVA production and plasma HVA concentration. The resting arterial plasma HVA concentration in CHF was increased approximately 3-fold. Unexpectedly, this was attributable to reduced HVA plasma clearance, not increased HVA production. Total HVA production in PAF was diminished by 40%. PAF patients had normal resting arterial HVA levels, this being accounted for by a 57% fall in the renal plasma clearance of HVA. Acute sympathetic nervous system activation in response to bicycle riding was accompanied by a 34% increase in the arterial concentration of HVA. It can be concluded that HVA is produced at a number of sites throughout the body not renowned for their dopaminergic innervation. Regional HVA production is associated, in part, with the metabolism of precursor dopamine in sympathetic nerves and at a rate which appears to be influenced by sympathetic nervous activity. To obtain an accurate indication of central dopaminergic activity the confounding influences of HVA plasma clearance and peripheral HVA production must be excluded.