Endogenous tetrahydroisoquinolines associated with Parkinson's disease mimic the feedback inhibition of tyrosine hydroxylase by catecholamines

Joachim Scholz*, Karen Toska, Alexander Luborzewski, Astrid Maass, Volker Schünemann, Jan Haavik, Andreas Moser

*Corresponding author for this work
5 Citations (Scopus)


N-methyl-norsalsolinol and related tetrahydroisoquinolines accumulate in the nigrostriatal system of the human brain and are increased in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Parkinson's disease. We show here that 6,7-dihydroxylated tetrahydroisoquinolines such as N-methyl-norsalsolinol inhibit tyrosine hydroxylase, the key enzyme in dopamine synthesis, by imitating the mechanisms of catecholamine feedback regulation. Docked into a model of the enzyme's active site, 6,7-dihydroxylated tetrahydroisoquinolines were ligated directly to the iron in the catalytic center, occupying the same position as the catecholamine inhibitor dopamine. In this position, the ligands competed with the essential tetrahydropterin cofactor for access to the active site. Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy revealed that, like dopamine, 6,7-dihydroxylated tetrahydroisoquinolines rapidly convert the catalytic iron to a ferric (inactive) state. Catecholamine binding increases the thermal stability of tyrosine hydroxylase and improves its resistance to proteolysis. We observed a similar effect after incubation with N-methyl-norsalsolinol or norsalsolinol. Following an initial rapid decline in tyrosine hydroxylation, the residual activity remained stable for 5 h at 37°C. Phosphorylation by protein kinase A facilitates the release of bound catecholamines and is the most prominent mechanism of tyrosine hydroxylase reactivation. Protein kinase A also fully restored enzyme activity after incubation with N-methyl-norsalsolinol, demonstrating that tyrosine hydroxylase inhibition by 6,7-dihydroxylated tetrahydroisoquinolines mimics all essential aspects of catecholamine end-product regulation. Increased levels of N-methyl-norsalsolinol and related tetrahydroisoquinolines are therefore likely to accelerate dopamine depletion in Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)2109-2121
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2008

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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