Impaired dopamine metabolism in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis

Mol Neurodegener. 2019 Aug 20;14(1):35. doi: 10.1186/s13024-019-0332-6.


A full understanding of Parkinson's Disease etiopathogenesis and of the causes of the preferential vulnerability of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons is still an unsolved puzzle. A multiple-hit hypothesis has been proposed, which may explain the convergence of familial, environmental and idiopathic forms of the disease. Among the various determinants of the degeneration of the neurons in Substantia Nigra pars compacta, in this review we will focus on the endotoxicity associated to dopamine dyshomeostasis. In particular, we will discuss the relevance of the reactive dopamine metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde (DOPAL) in the catechol-induced neurotoxicity. Indeed, the synergy between the catechol and the aldehyde moieties of DOPAL exacerbates its reactivity, resulting in modification of functional protein residues, protein aggregation, oxidative stress and cell death. Interestingly, αSynuclein, whose altered proteostasis is a recurrent element in Parkinson's Disease pathology, is considered a preferential target of DOPAL modification. DOPAL triggers αSynuclein oligomerization leading to synapse physiology impairment. Several factors can be responsible for DOPAL accumulation at the pre-synaptic terminals, i.e. dopamine leakage from synaptic vesicles, increased rate of dopamine conversion to DOPAL by upregulated monoamine oxidase and decreased DOPAL degradation by aldehyde dehydrogenases. Various studies report the decreased expression and activity of aldehyde dehydrogenases in parkinsonian brains, as well as genetic variants associated to increased risk in developing the pathology. Thus, we discuss how the deregulation of these enzymes might be considered a contributing element in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's Disease or a down-stream effect. Finally, we propose that a better understanding of the impaired dopamine metabolism in Parkinson's Disease would allow a more refined patients stratification and the design of more targeted and successful therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: Aldehyde dehydrogenase; DOPAL; Dopamine; Parkinson’s disease; Selective vulnerability; αSynuclein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Catechols / toxicity*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / drug effects
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*


  • Catechols
  • catechol
  • Dopamine