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June 1977

CNS Monoamine Metabolism in Bipolar Affective DisorderEvaluation Using a Peripheral Decarboxylase Inhibitor

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1977;34(6):735-739. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1977.01770180121013

• Carbidopa, a decarboxylase inhibitor that does not cross the blood-brain barrier, inhibits the peripheral synthesis of noradrenaline, serotonin, and tryptamine. By reducing the peripheral component of end-products of these amines in urine, a more accurate assessment of central nervous system (CNS) amine metabolism is provided. Urinary 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), tryptamine, and 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) were measured over ten days in ten normal controls and eight bipolar depressives. After a three-day baseline period, carbidopa, 100 mg three times a day, was given for seven days. While the patients tended to excrete less MHPG in the baseline period, these differences became somewhat larger, and statistically significant when peripheral contributions were reduced with carbidopa. While carbidopa resulted in striking inhibition of tryptamine excretion, and smaller decreases in the excretion of 5-HIAA and MHPG, evidently from storage pools, there were no significant differences in degree of inhibition between patients and controls. Absolute values of 5-HIAA and tryptamine were similar for both groups, during the baseline and again with carbidopa. These results after carbidopa are compatible with a central catecholaminergic deficit in bipolar depressives and the use of urinary MHPG as an index of CNS catecholamine function.