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Life Sci. 2002 Aug 23;71(14):1703-15.

Serial cerebrospinal fluid tryptophan and 5-hydroxy indoleacetic acid concentrations in healthy human subjects.

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The Eli Lilly Corporation, Indianapolis, IN, USA.


The role of the serotonergic system in the pathogenesis of behavioral disorders such as depression, alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and violence is not completely understood. Measurement of the concentration of neurotransmitters and their metabolites in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is considered among the most valid, albeit indirect, methods of assessing central nervous system function in man. However, most studies in humans have measured lumbar CSF concentrations only at single time points, thus not taking into account rhythmic or episodic variations in levels of neurotransmitters, precursors, or metabolites. We have continuously sampled lumbar CSF via subarachnoid catheter in 12 healthy volunteers, aged 20-65 years. One ml (every 10 min) CSF samples were collected at a rate of 0.1ml/min for 24-hour (h), and the levels of tryptophan (TRP) and 5-hydroxy indoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) were measured. Variability across all 12 subjects was significantly greater (P < 0.0001) than the variability seen in repeated analysis of a reference CSF sample for both 5-HIAA (32.0% vs 7.9%) and TRP (25.4% vs 7.0%), confirming the presence of significant biological variability during the 24-hr period examined. This variability could not be explained solely by meal related effects. Cosinor analysis of the 24-hr TRP concentrations from all subjects revealed a significant diurnal pattern in CSF TRP levels, whereas the 5-HIAA data were less consistent. These studies indicate that long-term serial CSF sampling reveals diurnal and biological variability not evident in studies based on single CSF samples.

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