1. Plasma concentrations of [3H]dihydroxyphenylglycol, the intraneuronal metabolite of noradrenaline, were examined during intravenous infusion of [3H]noradrenaline in 43 subjects, to assess the nature of its formation. Noradrenaline re-uptake by sympathetic nerves was estimated in 11 subjects from the effects of neuronal uptake blockade with desipramine on noradrenaline clearance and plasma concentrations of [3H]dihydroxyphenylglycol and endogenous dihydroxyphenylglycol. In seven subjects noradrenaline re-uptake and spillover into plasma were examined before and during mental arithmetic or handgrip exercise.

2. During infusion of [3H]noradrenaline, plasma [3H]dihydroxyphenylglycol increased progressively, indicating its formation from previously stored [3H]noradrenaline leaking from vesicles as well as from [3H]noradrenaline metabolism immediately after removal into sympathetic nerves. Thus, to estimate noradrenaline reuptake, the amount of [3H]dihydroxyphenylglycol derived from [3H]noradrenaline metabolized immediately after removal into the sympathetic axoplasm must be isolated from that derived from [3H]noradrenaline sequestered into vesicles.

3. At rest in the supine position the rate of noradrenaline re-uptake was 474 ± 122 pmol min−1 kg−1, 9.5-fold higher than the rate of spillover of noradrenaline into plasma (49.6 ± 6.4 pmol min−1 kg−1). Noradrenaline reuptake and spillover into plasma were both increased during mental arithmetic and isometric handgrip exercise.

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