We have identified a generalized deficiency of monoamine neurotransmitters in a patient with a defect in biopterin synthesis. Neurotransmitter precursors (L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine [L-dopa]; 5-hydroxytryptophan [5-HTP] and a tetrahydropterin [6-methyltetrahydropterin (6MPH4)] were investigated for their ability to normalize monoamine neurotransmitter metabolism. Before treatment, the concentrations of dopamine (DA), norepinephrine, epinephrine, and six monoamine metabolites were very low or undetectable in plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, or urine. L-Dopa and 5-HTP replacement was begun at age 7 mo. This therapy generally corrected the deficiency of monoamines and their metabolites, and improved neurological development until the age of 25 mo. Despite these benefits, the intermittent administration of L-dopa could not produce a stable improvement of acute neurological function or DA metabolism. In the 3 h after L-dopa administration, plasma DA and the motor activity and alertness of the patient rose and fell in parallel. Doses of L-dopa that were clinically optimal produced normal plasma levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine, but excessive concentrations of DA and its metabolites. Furthermore, the clinical and biochemical effects of L-dopa were inhibited by phenylalanine and 5-HTP, respectively, demonstrating that these amino acids have antagonistic pharmacological effects. Physiological correction of the monoamine deficit and the hyperphenylalaninemia of this disorder was attempted at age 35 mo using high doses (8-38 mg/kg per d) of 6MPH4. 6MPH4, a synthetic analogue of tetrahydrobiopterin, controlled the hyperphenylalaninemia. Significant concentrations of 6MPH4 were obtained in the cerebrospinal fluid; no neurological improvement or stimulation of monoamine synthesis in the central nervous system was detected. These findings indicate the complexity in replacement therapy with L-dopa and 5-HTP, but suggest that this treatment may be partially effective in biopterin-deficient patients who are unresponsive to high doses of tetrahydropterins.
R R McInnes, S Kaufman, J J Warsh, G R Van Loon, S Milstien, G Kapatos, S Soldin, P Walsh, D MacGregor, W B Hanley