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Brain Res. 1990 Nov 5;532(1-2):203-10.

Serotonin release varies with brain tryptophan levels.

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  • 1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


This study examines directly the effects on serotonin release of varying brain tryptophan levels within the physiologic range. It also addresses possible interactions between tryptophan availability and frequency of membrane depolarization in controlling serotonin release. We demonstrate that reducing tryptophan levels in rat hypothalamic slices (by superfusing them with medium supplemented with 100 microM leucine) decreases tissue serotonin levels as well as both spontaneous and electrically-evoked serotonin release. Conversely, elevating tissue tryptophan levels (by superfusing slices with medium supplemented with 2 microM tryptophan) increases both tissue serotonin levels and serotonin release. Serotonin release was found to be affected independently by tryptophan availability and frequency of electrical field-stimulation (1-5 Hz), since increasing both variables produced nearly additive increases in release. These observations demonstrate for the first time that both precursor-dependent elevations and reductions in brain serotonin levels produce proportionate changes in serotonin release, and that the magnitude of the tryptophan effect is unrelated to neuronal firing frequency. The data support the hypothesis that serotonin release is proportionate to intracellular serotonin levels.

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