A novel nonneuronal catecholaminergic system: Exocrine pancreas synthesizes and releases dopamine

Éva Mezey, Graeme Eisenhofer, Gyöngyi Harta, Stefan Hansson, Lydia Gould, Béla Hunyady, Beth J. Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

87 Citations (Scopus)


Cells of the exocrine pancreas produce digestive enzymes potentially harmful to the intestinal mucosa. Dopamine has been reported to protect against mucosal injury. In looking for the source of dopamine in the small intestine, we found that the duodenal juice contains high levels of dopamine and that the pancreas itself has a high dopamine [and dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa)] content that does not change significantly after chemical sympathectomy. Furthermore, we were able to demonstrate tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) activity in control pancreas as well as in pancreas from rats after chemical sympathectomy. Immunostaining and in situ hybridization histochemistry confirmed both the presence of TH, dopamine, and the dopamine transporter, and the mRNAs encoding TH and dopamine transporter, and the presence of both types of vesicular monoamine transporters in the exocrine cells of the pancreas. Since there are no catecholaminergic enteric ganglia in the pancreas, the above results indicate that pancreatic cells have all the characteristics of dopamine-producing cells. We suggest that the pancreas is an important source of nonneuronal dopamine in the body, and that this dopamine has a role in protecting the intestinal mucosa and suggests that dopamine D1b receptor agonists might be used to help mucosal healing in the gastrointestinal tract.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10377-10382
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Sep 17 1996


  • dopamine receptor
  • monoamine transporters
  • mucosal healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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