Diffusion coefficients of catecholamine neurotransmitters, their metabolites and related species were measured in brain extracellular fluid using in vivo voltammetric techniques. Nanoliter volumes of the species were pressure-ejected into the rat caudate nucleus and their concentration profiles were determined at nearby voltammetric detector electrodes. Thorough testing was carried out to show that the present methodology gave results which agreed with brain diffusion coefficients measured previously by ion-selective microelectrode techniques. All of the species which are anionic at pH 7.4 have brain diffusion coefficients about one-third of their solution counterparts in accord with earlier studies of diffusion in tortuous media. However, the brain diffusion coefficients of all the cation species are about three-times slower than those of the anions. This phenomenon is believed to be caused by ion binding with the polyanionic glycosaminoglycans and related species in brain tissue. In vitro model experiments lend support to this interpretation. This new information on biogenic amines and their metabolites provides meaningful predictions of the spatio-temporal concentration distribution of these species in the extracellular fluid.
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