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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1990 Jan;10(1):1-12.

A new method to measure brain serotonin synthesis in vivo. I. Theory and basic data for a biological model.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, Quebec, Canada.


We describe here an autoradiographic method to measure the in vivo rate of serotonin synthesis in rat brain. The method is based on the use of the L-tryptophan analogue alpha-methyl-L-tryptophan (alpha-MTrp), which is converted in vivo into alpha-methylserotonin (alpha-M5HT). Since alpha-M5HT is not a substrate for monoamine oxidase, it is accumulated in the brain tissue. Data are presented to confirm time-dependent conversion of alpha-MTrp into alpha-M5HT in the dorsal raphe nucleus and also in the pineal body, an organ outside the blood-brain barrier. It has also been shown that washing brain slices in 10% trichloroacetic acid results in less than 3% incorporation of alpha-MTrp into brain proteins. The rates of synthesis are calculated in several grossly dissected brain structures by using tracer kinetics and a three-compartment biological model. The half-life of the precursor pool is estimated to be approximately 20 min. The rate of serotonin synthesis is highest in the pineal body.

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