Distribution of catecholamines between fetal and maternal compartments during human pregnancy with emphasis on l-dopa and dopamine

Dan Peleg, Robert A. Munsick, Dov Diker, Jack A. Goldman, Nira Ben-Jonathan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was undertaken to determine the differential distribution of catecholamines, in particular L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa) and dopamine, between the fetal and maternal compartments during human pregnancy. Amniotic fluid and fetal and maternal blood were obtained from two groups of pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies. One group was at 15 20 weeks of gestation and the second group was in labor after 36 41 weeks of gestation. Samples were analyzed for L-dopa, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine by radioenzymatic assays. L-Dopa constitutedabout 80% of the total circulating fetal catecholamines, and levels were 2- to 3-fold higher infetal than maternal plasma. Marked increases in norepinephrine, small rises in epinephrine, but no changes in Ldopa or dopamine concentrations occurred in fetal plasma from mid- to late gestation. Maternal plasma catecholamines did not change. Towards the end of gestation, dopamine in the amniotic fluid increased 15-fold, and norepinephrine increased 5- to 6-fold; L-dopa remained highand unchanged. We conclude that Ldopa is the predominant catecholamine in fetal plasma and amnioticfluid during human pregnancy. No significant changes in its concentrations occur in either compartment between midand late gestation. In contrast, dopamine levels, which are 30- to 50-fold lower than those of L-dopa in amniotic fluid during midgestation, show a striking elevation toward the time of labor. Neither the sources nor the possible physiological functions of either L-dopa or dopamine during fetal life are known.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-914
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1986


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