The effects of L-dopa on in vitro and in vivo calcitonin release from medullary thyroid carcinoma

Stephen B. Baylin, Tah Hsiung Hsu, Shelley A. Stevens, Clayton H. Kallman, Donald L. Trump, Michael A. Beaven

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17 Scopus citations


The in vivo and in vitro effects of the dopamine precursor L-dopa on basal and stimulated calcitonin release from medullary thyroid carcinoma have been studied. In six studies of five patients, including 7-to 8-h control and test periods, oral L-dopa depressed basal calcitonin secretion by an average of 35%; the peak effects occurred within 30 min of drug administration and lasted for as long as 4 h. In seven of eight patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma (three infused with calcium and five with pentagastrin), L-dopa inhibited to varying degrees peak levels of stimulated calcitonin release and total calcitonin secretion; basal calcitonin levels, where directly tested, also again generally fell after L-dopa by an average of 50%. In a short term organ culture system using medullary thyroid carcinoma tissues, calcitonin secretion into the medium was linear with time for 2 h and could be stimulated by dibutyryl cAMP and pentagastrin. L-Dopa, in concentrations from 0.5-3.0 mM, inhibited basal calcitonin secretion (ranging from 25-55%). Addition of the L-dopa decarboxylase inhibitor, a-methyldopa, abolished the inhibitory effects of L-dopa. Another L-dopa decarboxylase inhibitor, carbidopa, stimulated calcitonin secretion in vitro; this effect may be independent of the L-dopa decarboxylase-inhibiting properties of this drug since a-methyldopa alone did not stimulate calcitonin secretion. It is concluded that the amine precursor L-dopa inhibits calcitonin release in patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma; the in vitro studies suggest that a portion of this effect may involve direct metabolism of L-dopa to dopamine in the tumor tissue itself. The importance of considering the uptake of amine precursors and the subsequent metabolism of these compounds as a modulating site for peptide hormone release from peripheral endocrine tissues is stressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-414
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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