Monoamine oxidase: Radiotracer chemistry and human studies

Joanna S. Fowler, Jean Logan, Elena Shumay, Nelly Alia-Klein, Gene Jack Wang, Nora D. Volkow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Monoamine oxidase (MAO) oxidizes amines from both endogenous and exogenous sources thereby regulating the concentration of neurotransmitter amines such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine as well as many xenobiotics. MAO inhibitor drugs are used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and in depression stimulating the development of radiotracer tools to probe the role of MAO in normal human biology and in disease. Over the past 30 years since the first radiotracers were developed and the first positron emission tomography (PET) images of MAO in humans were carried out, PET studies of brain MAO in healthy volunteers and in patients have identified different variables that have contributed to different MAO levels in brain and in peripheral organs. MAO radiotracers and PET have also been used to study the current and developing MAO inhibitor drugs including the selection of doses for clinical trials. In this article, we describe the following: (1) the development of MAO radiotracers; (2) human studies including the relationship of brain MAO levels to genotype, personality, neurological, and psychiatric disorders; and (3) examples of the use of MAO radiotracers in drug research and development. We will conclude with outstanding needs to improve the radiotracers that are currently used and possible new applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-64
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Labelled Compounds and Radiopharmaceuticals
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2015


  • PET
  • human studies
  • monoamine oxidase
  • radiotracer chemistry


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