(6R)-L-erythro-5,6,7,8-Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is an essential cofactor for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), tryptophan hydroxylase, phenylalanine hydroxylase, and nitric-oxide synthase. These enzymes synthesize neurotransmitters, e.g. catecholamines, serotonin, and nitric oxide (NO). We established mice unable to synthesize BH4 by disruption of the 6-pyruvoyltetrahydropterin synthase gene, the encoded protein of which catalyzes the second step of BH4 biosynthesis. Homozygous mice were born at the almost expected Mendelian ratio, but died within 48 h after birth. In the brain of homozygous mutant neonates, levels of biopterin, catecholamines, and serotonin were extremely low. The number of TH molecules was highly dependent on the intracellular concentration of BH4 at nerve terminals. Alteration of the TH protein level by modulation of the BH4 content is a novel regulatory mechanism. Our data showing that catecholaminergic, serotonergic, and NO systems were differently affected by BH4 starvation suggest the possible involvement of BH4 synthesis in the etiology of monoamine-based neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.
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