Tetrahydrobiopterin metabolism, neurotransmitters and behaviour in the rat

  • Juliette Cox

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Various neurotoxins were investigated to assess their suitability for developing an animal model to study partial brain BH4 deficiency, neurotransmitters and behavioural alterations. Acute dosing with lead, diethylstilboestrol (DES), amphetamine and scopolamine produced no significant changes in rat brain BH4 metabolism though total biopterins in the liver were significantly reduced by lead and DES. Acute starvation of adult rats decreased brain biopterins. This loss of biopterins may be due to enhanced oxidative catabolism of the active cofactor caused by glutathione depletion. Dietary administration of a BH4 biosynthesis inhibitor, DAHP, consistently decreased brain total biopterins in weaner rats but did not alter the levels of DA, NA, 5-HT or metabolites. However the DAHP diet also induced a marked reduction in food intake. Rats subjected to an equivalent degree of food restriction without inhibitor showed significant but less severe reductions in brain biopterins and again no effect on transmitter levels. DAHP produced a significant decrease in locomotor activity and rearing. This could not be ascribed to reduction in food intake as animals subjected to just dietary restriction showed an increase in these activities. As gross brain levels of DA, NA and 5-HT were unaltered by DAHP the behavioural changes associated with the induced deficiency in brain total biopterins might not have been mediated through the action of these compounds. Although localised changes in neurotransmitter levels may have been obscured by gross analysis it is also possible that the behaviour changes were mediated by a role of BH4 not yet elucidated. Long-term administration of a high aluminium low calcium diet to mice produced no effect on gross brain total biopterins, catecholamines, serotonin or choline acetyltransferase activity though significant behavioural changes were observed.
Date of Award1989
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn A. Blair (Supervisor)


  • Tetrahydrobiopterin metabolism
  • neurotransmitters
  • behaviour
  • rat

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