Journal of the neurological sciences

Plasma catechols and monoamine oxidase metabolites in untreated Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

PMID 8815165


Prior studies have documented functional and pathological compromise of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system in patients with Parkinson's disease, suggesting the possibility of reduced catecholamine release into the circulation. We measured free plasma catechols in early and untreated patients with Parkinson's disease, but found no evidence of reduced concentrations, compared to control subjects or a group of patients with probable Alzheimer's disease. Rather, there was a significant elevation of plasma norepinephrine within the Parkinson's disease group. Furthermore, 6 of 15 untreated Parkinson's disease patients (40%) displayed markedly elevated plasma concentrations of the catecholamine MAO metabolites, DOPAC or DOPEG. Despite this finding, platelet MAO-B activity measured in these and all other Parkinson's disease patients fell well within the range of the control subjects, and was also statistically similar to the group with Alzheimer's type dementia. Plasma dopa levels were similar in all groups, whereas the majority of patients in the three groups had plasma free dopamine and epinephrine concentrations below the limits of detection. These trends toward increased, rather than decreased, circulating catechol concentrations suggest that peripheral sympathetic nervous system catecholamine production and release is not severely compromised in patients with early Parkinson's disease. In addition, we were unable to confirm certain previous reports of elevated MAO-B activity in patients with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's diseases.