• Basal ganglia;
  • Choline acetyltransferase;
  • Development;
  • Dopamine;
  • Hypoxia;
  • Putamen;
  • Sudden infant death syndrome.

Abstract: There is evidence of abnormalities in the brain-stem monoamine-containing neurons in infants with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). By taking advantage of the rich innervation of the human basal ganglia by monoam-inergic afferents from cell bodies in the brainstem, we studied the synaptic chemistry of catecholamine and associated neurons of the putamen obtained postmortem from 14 SIDS infants, eight age-matched control infants, and older control subjects of various ages. We found significantly lower concentrations of dopamine and higher homovanillic acid/DA ratios in samples from SIDS infants compared with age-matched control infants. Noradrenaline and 5-hydroxytryptamine were lower in SIDS compared with control subjects, but the difference did not reach statistical significance. There was no clear evidence that dihydroxyphe-nylacetic acid and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid were altered. Immunoblot analysis of striatal tissue showed that samples from infants with SIDS, which exhibited lower DA, also had lower tyrosine hydroxylase protein. Other transmitter-specific neuronal markers were also assessed, including enzymes associated with cholinergic and GABA-containing neurons. We found significantly decreased choline acetyltransferase activities. However, GABA, glutamate, or somatostatin concentrations or monoamine oxidase activities were unchanged in SIDS. We also noted age-dependent changes in brain weights and some synaptic markers by comparing the age-matched infants with older control subjects. Analysis of variance revealed that homovanillic acid, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, and monoamine oxidase B activities were increased with age. DA and choline acetyltransferase were also found to be positively correlated in putamen. Our findings suggest developmental changes in some transmitter-specific neurons in SIDS that may result from apneic episodes or chronic hypoxia induced before death.