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Objective

Menkes disease is a lethal neurodegenerative disorder of infancy caused by mutations in a copper-transporting adenosine triphosphatase gene, ATP7A. Among its multiple cellular tasks, ATP7A transfers copper to dopamine beta hydroxylase (DBH) within the lumen of the Golgi network or secretory granules, catalyzing the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine. In a well-established mouse model of Menkes disease, mottled-brindled (mo-br), we tested whether systemic administration of L-threo-dihydroxyphenylserine (L-DOPS), a drug used successfully to treat autosomal recessive norepinephrine deficiency, would improve brain neurochemical abnormalities and neuropathology.

Methods

At 8, 10, and 12 days of age, wild-type and mo-br mice received intraperitoneal injections of 200μg/g body weight of L-DOPS, or mock solution. Five hours after the final injection, the mice were euthanized, and brains were removed. We measured catecholamine metabolites affected by DBH via high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection, and assessed brain histopathology.

Results

Compared to mock-treated controls, mo-br mice that received intraperitoneal L-DOPS showed significant increases in brain norepinephrine (p < 0.001) and its deaminated metabolite, dihydroxyphenylglycol (p < 0.05). The ratio of a non–beta-hydroxylated metabolite in the catecholamine biosynthetic pathway, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, to the beta-hydroxylated metabolite, dihydroxyphenylglycol, improved equivalently to results obtained previously with brain-directed ATP7A gene therapy (p < 0.01). However, L-DOPS treatment did not arrest global brain pathology or improve somatic growth, as gene therapy had.

Interpretation

We conclude that (1) L-DOPS crosses the blood–brain barrier in mo-br mice and corrects brain neurochemical abnormalities, (2) norepinephrine deficiency is not the cause of neurodegeneration in mo-br mice, and (3) L-DOPS treatment may ameliorate noradrenergic hypofunction in Menkes disease. ANN NEUROL 2013;73:259–265