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Variance in the production of homovanillic acid and 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenethyleneglycol by the awake primate brain

Life Sciences
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0024-3205(80)90113-7
  • Biology


Abstract Previous experimental results, using a new technique whereby the production rates of the neurotransmitter metabolites homovanillic acid (HVA) and 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenethyleneglycol (MHPG) by the awake primate brain are determined, have shown a wide variance in metabolite production among both animal and human subjects. These data suggested that either individual subjects differ in the activity of brain dopamine (DA) or norepinephrine (NE) neurons and/or that the activities of these neurons fluctuate over time. For these reasons a series of experiments were performed in which measures of HVA and MHPG production were obtained at three time points in the same animal (monkeys) over a three hour period. It was found that the group mean values for the production of HVA and MHPG by brain were similar for each of the three time points. However, it was also found that marked variations in HVA and MHPG production occur within a single animal over a three hour period. The coefficients of variation for individual animals for HVA ranged from 9.3 to 31.9% and for MHPG from 10.1 to 62.3%. These variations were not correlated with grossly observable changes in behavioral states. Using an analysis of variance it was found that the variance in MHPG production was significantly greater than that for HVA (F = 6.2, p < 0.05) suggesting that brain NE systems are more liable and/or show greater change than do brain DA systems. These data are interpreted as indicating that in the awake, resting primate brain fluctuations in the activities of DA and NE neurons occur, i.e. there is not a steady, invariant production of metabolites but rather they are produced in pulses of varying lengths. This interpretation of the data is generally consistent with electrophysiological studies which indicate that catecholamine neurons fire in bursts which are then followed by silent periods. Finally, in terms of practical application of the V-A difference technique, these data indicate that replicable group mean estimates of brain HVA and MHPG production can be obtained by averaging values from a single time point whereas accurate information about an individual animal will require multiple samplings. Recent reports from this laboratory have described a method whereby a direct measure of the rates of production of neurotransmitter metabolites such as homovanillic acid (HVA), 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenethyleneglycol (MHPG), and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) by the awake primate brain can be determined (1, 2, 3, 4). Since the quantities of HVA, MHPG, and probably 5-HIAA in the brain vary as a function of the activity of dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE), and serotonin (5-HT) neurons (1, 5, 6, 7, 8), it is likely that these measures of neurotransmitter metabolite production reflect the functional state of brain DA, NE, and 5-HT neuronal systems. The experimental results thus far obtained with this technique have shown a wide variance in the rates of neurotransmitter metabolite production across both animal and human subjects even though the subjects were not in clearly different behavioral or emotional states (1, 2, 4, 9). These data suggested that either individual subjects differ markedly in the activities of brain DA, NE, and 5-HT neurotransmitter systems and/or that the activity of these systems fluctuates markedly over time. For these reasons, experiments were undertaken in which repeated measures of HVA and MHPG production by brain within the same animal were determined over a three hour period. The results of these experiments, which are reported here, indicate that there are marked changes in brain metabolite production which occur within animals. The implications of these findings for our understanding of the functioning of brain neurotransmitter systems and for the practical applications of this technique are discussed.

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