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Research Article

13C-phenylalanine breath test detects altered phenylalanine kinetics in schizophrenia patients


Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid required for the synthesis of catecholamines including dopamine. Altered levels of phenylalanine and its metabolites in blood and cerebrospinal fluid have been reported in schizophrenia patients. This study attempted to examine for the first time whether phenylalanine kinetics is altered in schizophrenia using L-[1-13C]phenylalanine breath test (13C-PBT). The subjects were 20 chronically medicated schizophrenia patients (DSM-IV) and the same number of age- and sex-matched controls. 13C-phenylalanine (99 atom% 13C; 100 mg) was administered orally and the breath 13CO2 /12CO2 ratio was monitored for 120 min. The possible effect of antipsychotic medication (risperidone (RPD) or haloperidol (HPD) treatment for 21 days) on 13C-PBT was examined in rats. Body weight (BW), age and diagnostic status were significant predictors of the area under the curve of the time course of Δ13CO2 (‰) and the cumulative recovery rate (CRR) at 120 min. A repeated measures analysis of covariance controlled for age and BW revealed that the patterns of CRR change over time differed between the patients and controls and that Δ13CO2 was lower in the patients than in the controls at all sampling time points during the 120 min test, with an overall significant difference between the two groups. Chronic administration of RPD or HPD had no significant effect on 13C-PBT indices in rats. Our results suggest that 13C-PBT is a novel laboratory test that can detect altered phenylalanine kinetics in chronic schizophrenia patients. Animal experiments suggest that the observed changes are unlikely to be attributable to antipsychotic medication.