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Regulation of dopaminergic function: an [(18)F]-DOPA PET apomorphine challenge study in humans

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1027
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number2
Accepted/In press2 Aug 2016
Published7 Feb 2017


King's Authors


Dopaminergic function has a key role in normal brain function, dopaminergic dysfunction being implicated in numerous neuropsychiatric disorders. Animal studies show that dopaminergic stimulation regulates dopaminergic function, but it is not known whether this exists in humans. In the first study (study 1), we measured dopamine synthesis capacity (indexed as Ki(cer)) to identify the relationship between baseline and change in Ki(cer) under resting conditions for comparison with effects of dopaminergic stimulation. In the second study (study 2), we used a within-subjects design to test effects of dopaminergic stimulation on dopamine synthesis capacity. In study 1, eight volunteers received two (18)F-DOPA scans on separate days, both at rest. In study 2, 12 healthy male volunteers received two (18)F-DOPA positron emission tomographic (PET) scans after treatment with either the dopamine partial agonist apomorphine (0.03 or 0.005 mg kg(-1)) or placebo. In study 1, no significant correlation was found between baseline and change in dopamine synthesis capacity between scans (r=-0.57, n=8, P=0.17, two-tailed). In study 2, a significant negative correlation was found between baseline dopamine synthesis capacity and percentage change in dopamine synthesis capacity after apomorphine challenge (r=-0.71, n=12, P=0.01, two-tailed). This correlation was significantly different (P<0.01) from the correlation between baseline and change in dopamine synthesis capacity under unstimulated conditions. One-way repeated-measures analysis of variance showed a significant group (study 1/study 2) × time interaction (F(1,18)=11.5, P=0.003). Our findings suggest that regulation of dopamine synthesis capacity by apomorphine depends on baseline dopamine function, consistent with dopamine stimulation stabilizing dopaminergic function. Loss of this autoregulation may contribute to dopaminergic dysfunction in brain disorders such as schizophrenia, substance dependence, and Parkinson's disease.

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