We describe here and validate an in vivo technique to measure the regional proportionate removal of norepinephrine (NE) by neuronal uptake (Uptake1) in man. The measurement is based on the steady-state arterial and venous concentrations of tritiated NE and tritiated isoproterenol (ISO) during simultaneous infusion of both. The validity of this technique depends on the removal of circulating NE, but not of ISO, by sympathetic nerve endings and on there being no other factor contributing to the net difference in the plasma disappearance of these catecholamines. To test these hypotheses, we compared the removal of NE in the arm with that of ISO in 14 people and the effects of pretreatment with the specific inhibitor of Uptake1, desipramine, in 8 people. In all the subjects a greater percent of NE than of ISO was removed during passage of blood through the forearm (54 vs. 46%, P less than 0.0001). Pretreatment with desipramine decreased significantly the removal of NE to virtually exactly that of ISO. The difference in NE and ISO clearances by arm tissues was therefore completely accounted for by Uptake1. About 15% of infused NE which is removed in the arm is removed by Uptake1. The ability to measure regional Uptake1 should contribute to better understanding of the relationship between circulating levels of plasma NE and sympathetic neural activity and may allow detection of abnormalities of neuronal norepinephrine removal in clinical disease states.
D S Goldstein, R Zimlichman, R Stull, J Folio, P D Levinson, H R Keiser, I J Kopin