Epinephrine is metabolized by the spinal meninges of monkeys and pigs

Anesthesiology. 1995 Nov;83(5):1078-81. doi: 10.1097/00000542-199511000-00021.


Background: Epinephrine commonly is added to epidural opioids and local anesthetics, however, little is known about the fate of epidurally administered epinephrine. Studies have identified the epinephrine metabolizing enzyme, catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT), in the cranial meninges of several species. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the spinal meninges also contain COMT and are capable of metabolizing epinephrine. If so, then the spinal meninges may have an important impact in limiting the bioavailability of epinephrine in both the spinal cord and epidural space.

Methods: Spinal meningeal specimens measuring 4 cm2 were obtained from monkeys (M. nemestrina) and farm-bred pigs and were incubated in bicarbonate-buffered mock cerebrospinal fluid. Epinephrine (200 micrograms base) was added at t = 0, and 200 min later, the mock cerebrospinal fluid was collected for metanephrine analysis. In separate experiments, pig meningeal specimens were separated into dura mater, pia-arachnoid mater, and pia mater, and the experiments were repeated to determine which meninx had the greatest COMT activity.

Results: Metanephrine was produced by monkey meninges at the rate of 0.47 ng.min-1.cm-2 and by pig meninges at the rate of 0.23 ng.min-1.cm-2 (P > 0.05). The pia-arachnoid meninx produced metanephrine at a greater rate (4.48 +/- 0.46 ng.min-1.mg-1 tissue) than did the pia mater (1.3 +/- 0.15 ng.min-1.mg-1 tissue) or dura mater alone (1.82 +/- 0.23 ng.min-1.mg-1 tissue).

Conclusions: These data demonstrate the functional presence of COMT in the spinal meninges of pigs and monkeys and suggest that the spinal meninges may limit the spinal bioavailability of epidurally or intrathecally administered epinephrine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Epinephrine / metabolism*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Macaca nemestrina
  • Meninges / enzymology
  • Meninges / metabolism*
  • Metanephrine / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Spinal Cord / enzymology
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Swine
  • Sympathomimetics / metabolism*


  • Sympathomimetics
  • Metanephrine
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Epinephrine