Elevated cerebrospinal fluid ratios of cysteinyl-dopamine/3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid in parkinsonian synucleinopathies

David S. Goldstein*, Courtney Holmes, Patricia Sullivan, Yunden Jinsmaa, Irwin J. Kopin, Yehonatan Sharabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction There is intense interest in identifying cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers of Parkinson's disease (PD), both for early diagnosis and to track effects of putative treatments. Nigrostriatal dopamine depletion characterizes PD. Predictably, CSF levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), the main neuronal metabolite of dopamine, are decreased in PD, even in patients with recent onset of the movement disorder. Whether low CSF DOPAC is associated specifically with parkinsonism has been unclear. In the neuronal cytoplasm dopamine undergoes not only enzymatic oxidation to form DOPAC but also spontaneous oxidation to form 5-S-cysteinyl-dopamine (Cys-DA). Theoretically, oxidative stress or decreased activity of aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) in the residual nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons would increase CSF Cys-DA levels with respect to DOPAC levels. PD, parkinsonian multiple system atrophy (MSA-P), and pure autonomic failure (PAF) are synucleinopathies; however, PAF does not entail parkinsonism. We examined whether an elevated Cys-DA/DOPAC ratio provides a specific biomarker of parkinsonism in synucleinopathy patients. Methods CSF catechols were assayed in PD (n = 24), MSA-P (n = 32), PAF (n = 18), and control subjects (n = 32). Results Compared to controls, CSF DOPAC was decreased in PD and MSA-P (p < 0.0001 each). In both diseases Cys-DA/DOPAC ratios averaged more than twice control (0.14 ± 0.02 and 0.13 ± 0.02 vs. 0.05 ± 0.01, p < 0.0001 each), whereas in PAF the mean Cys-DA/DOPAC ratio was normal (0.05 ± 0.01). Conclusions CSF Cys-DA/DOPAC ratios are substantially increased in PD and MSA-P and are normal in PAF. Thus, in synucleinopathies an elevated CSF Cys-DA/DOPAC ratio seems to provide a specific biomarker of parkinsonism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Aldehyde dehydrogenase
  • Multiple system atrophy
  • Parkinson disease


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