Dopamine precursors and brain function in phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency

Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1994 Dec;407:86-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1994.tb13461.x.


Phenylalanine and tyrosine constitute the two initial steps in the biosynthesis of dopamine, which, in its turn, is the metabolic precursor of noradrenaline and adrenaline. The extracellular phenylalanine concentration influences brain function in phenylalanine deficiency (PHD) by decreased dopamine synthesis. It has been shown to induce EEG slowing, and prolonged the performance time on neuropsychological tests. The tyrosine concentration in the CNS is reduced in PHD, possibly implying insufficient substrate (= tyrosine) for catecholamine synthesis due to competition inhibition, for instance across the blood brain barrier. In experimental studies it has been shown that the synthesis and release of dopamine can be influenced by an increase in the availability of tyrosine. In PHD an extra dietary intake of three doses of tyrosine (160 mg/kg/24h) induced a shortening of reaction time and decreased variability, and in a double-blind crossover study a similar dose has been reported to induce an improvement on psychological tests. In a study with lower doses of tyrosine (110 mg/kg/24 h) no effect was found on reaction time tests. These findings need to be substantiated, and more detailed information should be obtained.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Chemistry
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dopamine / biosynthesis*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Phenylalanine / metabolism*
  • Phenylalanine Hydroxylase / deficiency
  • Phenylketonurias / diet therapy
  • Phenylketonurias / metabolism*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism*
  • Tyrosine / therapeutic use


  • Tyrosine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Phenylalanine Hydroxylase
  • Dopamine