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Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Feb 15;55(4):428-33.

Robust and tissue-specific expression of TPH2 versus TPH1 in rat raphe and pineal gland.

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Mental Health Research Institute, University of Michigan Medical Center, C560 MSRB II, 1150 W. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0669, USA.



Regulation of raphe serotonergic cells is fundamental to the prevailing hypothesis of major depression pathophysiology. Tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) is the rate-limiting enzyme in serotonin biosynthesis, but brainstem TPH mRNA expression has been difficult to measure and study. Recently, a novel paralog of TPH, TPH2 (or neuronal TPH), was described, but its anatomic expression is unknown.


In situ hybridization histochemical survey was conducted across Sprague-Dawley rat brain for TPH1 and TPH2 mRNA. Semiquantitative techniques were used to estimate relative mRNA levels in individual cells.


Almost exclusively, TPH2 mRNA is expressed in raphe, in a pattern overlapping the histologically defined raphe nuclei. In sharp contrast, TPH1 (the previously known TPH) is expressed predominantly in pineal gland. There is no appreciable overlap in the expression of these paralogs. The level of TPH2 mRNA expression in individual raphe cells is approximately 2.5-fold greater than the level of TPH1 expression in pinealocytes.


TPH2 mRNA has an anatomic expression pattern consistent with brainstem raphe nuclei and is likely to be the gene giving rise to the majority of TPH activity in these cells. The robust expression of TPH2 in brainstem should facilitate studies on the transcriptional regulation of raphe serotonin biosynthesis.

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