Apoptosis-inducing neurotoxicity of dopamine and its metabolites via reactive quinone generation in neuroblastoma cells

M. Emdadul Haque, Masato Asanuma, Youichirou Higashi, Ikuko Miyazaki, Ken Ichi Tanaka, Norio Ogawa

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151 Citations (Scopus)


Neurotoxic properties of L-dopa and dopamine (DA)-related compounds were assessed in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells with reference to their structural relationship. L-Dopa and its metabolites containing two free hydroxyl residues on their benzene ring showed toxicity in the cell, which was prevented by superoxide dismutase (SOD) and reduced glutathione (GSH), but not by catalase. Furthermore, a synthetic derivative of DA, 3-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenethylamine (HMPE) containing methoxy residue at position 4 in the benzene ring, exerted partial cytotoxicity, which was not prevented by SOD, GSH or catalase. However, the metabolites containing methoxy residue at position 3 failed to show a toxic effect in the SH-SY5Y cells. Moreover, DA induced apoptotic cell death, which was observed by nuclear and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) staining and measurement of caspase-3 activity; this compound up-regulated apoptotic factor p53 while down-regulating anti-apoptotic factor Bcl-2. In the cell-free in vitro electron spin resonance (ESR) spectrometry, DA possessing two hydroxyl groups showed generation of DA-semiquinone radicals, which were markedly prevented by addition of SOD or GSH but not by catalase. On the other hand, methylation of one of the hydroxyl residues on the benzene ring of DA converted DA to an unoxidizable compound (3-MT or HMPE), and caused it to lose the property to produce semiquinone radicals. It has been previously reported that SOD acting as a superoxide:semiquinone oxidoreductase prevents quinone formation, and that reduced GSH through forming a complex with DA-quinone prevents quinone binding to the thiol group of the intact protein. Therefore, the present results suggest that DA and its metabolites containing two hydroxyl residues exert cytotoxicity mainly due to generation of highly reactive quinones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Dopamine
  • L-Dopa
  • Quinone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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