Decreased vesicular storage and aldehyde dehydrogenase activity in multiple system atrophy

David S. Goldstein, Patricia Sullivan, Courtney Holmes, Irwin J. Kopin, Yehonatan Sharabi, Deborah C. Mash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Parkinson disease (PD) and multiple system atrophy (MSA) share some neuropathologic features (nigrostriatal dopaminergic lesion, alpha-synuclein deposition) but not others (Lewy bodies in PD, glial cytoplasmic inclusions in MSA). In PD evidence has accrued for a vesicular storage defect and decreased aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity in residual dopaminergic terminals, resulting in accumulation of the toxic dopamine (DA) metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde (DOPAL). In this study we asked whether MSA entails a similar abnormal neurochemical pattern. Methods: DA and its main neuronal metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), norepinephrine (NE) and its main neuronal metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylglycol (DHPG), the catecholamine precursor DOPA, and DOPAL were measured in striatal and frontal cortical tissue from patients with pathologically proven end-stage MSA (N = 15), sporadic PD (N = 17), and control subjects (N = 18). Results: Compared to the control group, the MSA and PD groups had similarly decreased putamen DA (by 96% and 93%, p < 0.0001), DOPAC (97% and 95%, p < 0.0001), NE (91% and 74%, p < 0.0001), and DHPG (81% and 74%, p < 0.0001). In the MSA and PD groups, ratios of DOPAL:DA were 2.3 and 3.5 times control and DHPG:NE 3.1 and 2.6 times control, while DOPAC:DOPAL ratios were decreased by 61% and 74%. In both diseases cortical NE and DHPG were decreased, while DA and DOPAC were not. Conclusions: MSA and PD entail a catecholamine metabolic profile indicating impaired vesicular storage, decreased ALDH activity, and DOPAL buildup, which might be part of a common pathway in catecholamine neuronal death. Targeting this pathway by interfering with catecholaldehyde production or effects constitutes a novel treatment approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-572
Number of pages6
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine
  • Multiple system atrophy
  • Norepinephrine
  • Parkinson disease
  • Putamen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology


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