Homovanillic acid (HVA), or 3-methoxy-4- hydroxyphenylacetic acid, is a metabolite of dopamine. Although dopamine is an important brain neurotransmitter, a substantial amount of dopamine is produced in the GI tract.
In neurotransmitter production, dopamine is formed from phenylalanine and tyrosine using several enzymes which require nutrient cofactors such as iron, tetrahydrobiopterin, and pyridoxal phosphate.
Dopamine then becomes norepinephrine using the enzyme dopamine beta-hydroxylase, which requires copper and ascorbic acid for optimal activity.
Dopamine can be metabolized to homovanillic acid using both monoamine oxidase (MAO) and catechol-Omethyltransferase (COMT).
MAO requires a vitamin B2 (FAD) cofactor, while the COMT enzyme requires SAM, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
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Low levels of urinary HVA imply deficient production of dopamine due to decreased amino acid precursors or lack of vitamin cofactors throughout the production cycle. It may also reflect impaired methylation of dopamine to HVA. Low dopamine turnover and low HVA levels are seen in some mood disorders and as an effect of various antidepressants.
Elevations of homovanillic acid can be seen with lack of vitamin cofactors for enzymes within the metabolism of dopamine or the production of norepinephrine. Quercetin supplementation can elevate plasma HVA and perhaps urinary excretion.
Dietary flavanols, such as tomatoes, onions, and tea are also known to elevate urinary HVA. Like VMA, urinary HVA is elevated in conditions such as neuroblastoma and neural crest tumors. And, since dopamine regulates emotional and motivational behavior, changes in dopamine levels, and subsequent HVA levels, have been studied in the overall stress response, PTSD, mood disorders, and autism.
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