Modulation of hippocampal dopamine metabolism and hippocampal-dependent cognitive function by catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibition

J Psychopharmacol. 2012 Dec;26(12):1561-8. doi: 10.1177/0269881112454228. Epub 2012 Jul 19.


Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) catabolises the catecholamine neurotransmitters and influences cognitive function. COMT modulates dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex and its action in this region is generally invoked to explain its effects on cognition. However, its role in other brain regions important for cognitive function remains largely unexplored. Here, we investigated COMT's impact on dopamine metabolism in the hippocampus and hippocampal-dependent behaviour. We examined the acute effects of a centrally-acting COMT inhibitor, tolcapone (30 mg/kg i.p.), on dopamine metabolism in the rat dorsal hippocampus, assessed both in tissue homogenates and extracellularly, using in vivo microdialysis. Additionally, we investigated the effect of tolcapone on delayed-rewarded alternation and spatial novelty preference, behavioural tasks which are dependent on the dorsal hippocampus. Tolcapone significantly modulated dopamine metabolism in the dorsal hippocampus, as indexed by the depletion of extracellular homovanillic acid (HVA) and the accumulation of dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC). Tolcapone also improved performance on the delayed-rewarded alternation and spatial novelty preference tasks, compared to vehicle-treated rats. Our findings suggest that COMT regulates dorsal hippocampal neurochemistry and modulates hippocampus-dependent behaviours. These findings support the therapeutic candidacy of COMT inhibition as a cognitive enhancer, and suggest that, in addition to the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus might be a key region for mediating these effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Benzophenones / pharmacology*
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase Inhibitors*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Nitrophenols / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Reward
  • Tolcapone


  • Benzophenones
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nitrophenols
  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Tolcapone
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Dopamine