Regulation of pteridine-requiring enzymes by the cofactor tetrahydrobiopterin

Mol Neurobiol. 1999 Feb;19(1):79-96. doi: 10.1007/BF02741379.


Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is synthesized from guanosine triphosphate (GTP) by GTP cyclohydrolase I (GCH), 6-pyruvoyltetrahydropterin synthase (PTS), and sepiapterin reductase (SPD). GCH is the rate-limiting enzyme. BH4 is a cofactor for three pteridine-requiring monooxygenases that hydroxylate aromatic L-amino acids, i.e., tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH), and phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH), as well as for nitric oxide synthase (NOS). The intracellular concentrations of BH4, which are mainly determined by GCH activity, may regulate the activity of TH (an enzyme-synthesizing catecholamines from tyrosine), TPH (an enzyme-synthesizing serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan), PAH (an enzyme required for complete degradation of phenylalanine to tyrosine, finally to CO2 + H2O), and also the activity of NOS (an enzyme forming NO from arginine), Dominantly inherited hereditary progressive dystonia (HPD), also termed DOPA-responsive dystonia (DRD) or Segawa's disease, is a dopamine deficiency in the nigrostriatal dopamine neurons, and is caused by mutations of one allele of the GCH gene. GCH activity and BH4 concentrations in HPD/DRD are estimated to be 2-20% of the normal value. By contrast, recessively inherited GCH deficiency is caused by mutations of both alleles of the GCH gene, and the GCH activity and BH4 concentrations are undetectable. The phenotypes of recessive GCH deficiency are severe and complex, such as hyperphenylalaninemia, muscle hypotonia, epilepsy, and fever episode, and may be caused by deficiencies of various neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and NO. The biosynthesis of dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, melatonin, and probably NO by individual pteridine-requiring enzymes may be differentially regulated by the intracellular concentration of BH4, which is mainly determined by GCH activity. Dopamine biosynthesis in different groups of dopamine neurons may be differentially regulated by TH activity, depending on intracellular BH4 concentrations and GCH activity. The nigrostriatal dopamine neurons may be most susceptible to a partial decrease in BH4, causing dopamine deficiency in the striatum and the HPD/DRD phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biopterin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Biopterin / biosynthesis
  • Biopterin / chemistry
  • Biopterin / deficiency
  • Biopterin / metabolism
  • Coenzymes / biosynthesis
  • Coenzymes / chemistry
  • Coenzymes / deficiency
  • Coenzymes / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Enzymes / deficiency
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / enzymology
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / genetics
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / pathology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pteridines / metabolism*


  • Coenzymes
  • Enzymes
  • Pteridines
  • Biopterin
  • sapropterin