Menkes disease is a lethal neurodegenerative disorder of infancy caused by mutations in a copper-transporting ATPase 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, 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.
At 8, 10, and 12 days of age, wild type and mo-br mice received intraperi-toneal injections of 200μg/g body weight of L-DOPS, or mock solution. Five hours after the final injection, the mice were euthanized and brains removed. We measured catecholamine metabolites affected by DBH via high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection, and assessed brain histopathology.
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 (DHPG, 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.
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.