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J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Jan-Feb;41(1-2):168-73. Epub 2005 Jul 14.

Analysis of tryptophan hydroxylase I and II mRNA expression in the human brain: a post-mortem study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Nussbaumstr. 7, D-80336 Munich, Germany.


Dysregulation of brain serotonin transmission is an important contributing factor in many psychiatric disorders. Tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH), the rate limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of serotonin plays a major role as candidate gene in several psychiatric disorders. Recently, a second TPH isoform (TPH2) was identified in mice which was exclusively expressed in the brain. Due to the lack of data about its anatomic expression in humans we performed a mRNA expression analysis comparing TPH1 and TPH2 mRNA in several regions of the human brain (cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, cerebellum and raphe nuclei). The study was performed with post-mortem specimens obtained from eight individuals with sudden deaths, not directly involving CNS diseases. Our results demonstrate that the mRNA of both genes is expressed in each investigated brain region with variations between the brain areas, as well as between the particular genes. The major finding of this study was the high expression level of TPH2 mRNA in the raphe nuclei ( approximately 4-fold more abundant than that of TPH1). The raphe nuclei showed the highest TPH2 mRNA levels at all, compared to the other regions (7-fold higher levels on average). To our knowledge, this is the fist study which demonstrates the localization of TPH1 and TPH2 mRNA in different regions of the human brain. Our findings provide further support for a duality of the serotonergic system and may open up new research strategies for the analysis of the repeatedly observed disturbances in the serotonergic system in patients suffering from several psychiatric disorders.

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