Food and Behaviour Research

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Role of zinc in the pathogenesis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: implications for research and treatment

Lepping P, Huber M. (2010) CNS Drugs. 24(9): 721-8. 

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The dopamine transporter is regulated by zinc (Zn2+), which directly interacts with the transporter protein as a potent non-competitive blocker of substrate translocation (dopamine transport inward and outward).

The fact that dysfunction of the dopamine transporter is involved in the pathogenesis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is interesting in the context of studies that suggest the involvement of zinc deficiency in patients with ADHD.

In this article, we present a hypothesis exploring the causative mechanism of zinc deficiency in ADHD and why zinc might be beneficial as a supplementary medication and/or adjunct to psychostimulants (methylphenidate, amfetamine) in zinc-deficient ADHD patients. The hypothesis is based on published in vitro observations that the human dopamine transporter contains a high-affinity zinc binding site (His-193, His-375, Glu-396) on its extracellular face that modulates transporter function, and in vivo studies suggesting that response to stimulants is reduced in zinc-deficient ADHD patients.

It seems likely that zinc supplementation in zinc-deficient ADHD patients improves the binding status of insufficiently occupied zinc binding sites on the dopamine transporter. We propose to test our hypothesis by recruiting zinc-deficient ADHD patients who will undergo positron emission tomography with the 11C-raclopride displacement method to investigate whether zinc increases extracellular dopamine levels.