Apomorphine and Its Relation to Dopamine in the Nervous System

  • Theodore L. Sourkes
  • Samarthji Lal


Apomorphine was synthesized from morphine over one hundred years ago and was soon recognized as a powerful emetic agent. Its ability to induce Stereotypie behavior in experimental animals—a repetitious pattern involving chewing, licking, and gnawing movements—was noted in the earliest pharmacotoxicological research with the alkaloid (Harnack, 1874). Whereas its emetic activity brought apomorphine into therapeutics as one of the earliest synthetic medicinal agents, until recently little attention was paid to its stereotypic properties with the exception of the work of Morita (1915) and Amsler (1923). However, a number of developments have brought it into focus. In 1948, Dordoni in Italy found that apomorphine decreased decerebrate rigidity in dogs. Similar observations led Schwab et al (1951) to use subemetic doses of apomorphine in patients with Parkinson’s disease, a condition in which rigidity is one of the cardinal symptoms. Improvement in rigidity and tremor was definite but transient. Further investigators confirmed these findings (Struppler and von Uexküll, 1953; von Uexküll, 1953). However, the requirements for parenteral administration, the short duration of action of apomorphine, and the problem of its stability limited therapeutic application ; thus interest quickly waned. Schwab and his associates (1951) did describe an oral mixture containing apomorphine which was stable and which produced improvement, but it was less effective than injected apomorphine. In 1970, the anti-Parkinsonian effect was restudied by Cotzias and his colleagues.


Tyrosine Hydroxylase Dopamine Receptor Caudate Nucleus Stereotyped Behavior Neuroleptic Drug 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore L. Sourkes
    • 1
  • Samarthji Lal
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.General Hospital and Queen Mary Veterans’ HospitalMontrealCanada

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