Background: Chronic renal parenchymal diseases are accompanied by a progressive loss of tubular units endowed with the ability to synthesise dopamine from L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine ( L-DOPA), and preliminary evidence has suggested that the urinary excretion of free dopamine may be reduced in these disorders. However, it is well recognised now that under in vitro conditions, dopamine newly synthesised in tubular epithelial cells undergoes extensive deamination to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) by monoamine oxidase (MAO); a small amount of the amine is converted to homovanillic acid by both MAO and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and a minor amount is methylated to 3-methoxytyramine. Aims: The present study aimed at examining the relationship between renal function and daily urinary levels of L-DOPA, free dopamine and its main metabolites, DOPAC and homovanillic acid (HVA) in patients (n = 28) with chronic renal parenchymal disease, in conditions of controlled sodium, potassium and phosphate intake. The levels of 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid (5-HIAA) were also evaluated in the same cohort of patients. Results: The patients were divided in two groups according to creatinine clearance (group 1, 39±6 ml/min/1.73 m<sup>2</sup>, n = 14; group 2, 139±6 ml/min/1.73 m<sup>2</sup>, n = 14). In patients of group 1, the urinary levels of L-DOPA, dopamine and DOPAC (in nmol/24 h) were significantly lower (60% reduction) than in patients of group 2 ( L-DOPA, 134±36 vs. 308±51; dopamine, 759± 175 vs. 1,936± 117; DOPAC 2,595±340 vs. 7,938±833). Also, the urinary excretion of HVA in patients group 1 was significantly lower (40% reduction) than in patients of group 2 (17,434±2,455 vs. 27,179±2,271 nmol/24 h). By contrast, no significant difference was observed in daily urinary excretion of 5-HIAA between the two groups of patients (group 1, 27,280±3,721 nmol/day; group 2, 28,851±2,854 nmol/day). A positive linear relationship was found in these 28 patients between the creatinine clearance and the daily urinary excretion of L-DOPA (r = 0.64, p < 0.001), free dopamine (r = 0.83; p < 0.0001), DOPAC (r = 0.86; p < 0.0001) and HVA (r = 0.65; p < 0.002), but not with that of 5-HIAA (r = 0.14; ns). The U<sub>dopamine/ L-DOPA</sub> and U<sub>DOPAC/dopamine</sub> ratios were found to be similar in both groups of patients, whereas the U<sub>HVA/DOPAC</sub> ratios in patients of group 1 were found greater than in group 2 (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Patients suffering from chronic parenchymal disease with a compromised renal function present with a reduced activity of their renal dopaminergic system which correlates well with the degree of deterioration of renal function. The reduced urinary dopamine output in renal insufficiency is not attributable to enhanced metabolism of renal dopamine. We suggest that the urinary levels of DOPAC may represent a useful parameter for the assessment of renal dopamine synthesis.