Send to

Choose Destination
Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Jan;43(2):272-82. doi: 10.1111/apt.13459. Epub 2015 Nov 5.

Alterations in serotonin metabolism in the irritable bowel syndrome.

Author information

Division of Gastroenterology-Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Maastricht University Medical Center+, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
NUTRIM School for Nutrition, and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Department of Gastroenterology, Alrijne Zorggroep, Leiden, The Netherlands.



Alterations in serotonin (5-HT) metabolism have been postulated to play a role in the pathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, previous reports regarding 5-HT metabolism in IBS are contradicting.


To compare platelet poor plasma (PPP) 5-HT and 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA) levels and their ratio in a large cohort of IBS patients and healthy controls (HC), including IBS-subgroup analysis.


Irritable bowel syndrome patients and HC were evaluated for fasting PPP 5-HT and 5-HIAA levels. Furthermore, GI-symptom diary, GSRS, quality of life, anxiety and depression scores were assessed in the 2 weeks before blood sampling.


One hundred and fifty four IBS patients and 137 HC were included. No differences were detected in plasma 5-HT between groups. The 5-HIAA concentrations and 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio were significantly lower in IBS compared to HC: 24.6 ± 21.9 vs. 39.0 ± 29.5 μg/L (P < 0.001) and 8.4 ± 12.2 vs. 13.5 ± 16.6 (P < 0.01), respectively. Subtype analysis for 5-HIAA showed all IBS subtypes to be significantly different from HC. The 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio was significantly lower in the IBS-M subtype vs. HC. Linear regression analysis points to an influence of gender but not of GI-symptoms, psychological scores or medication use.


We demonstrated that fasting 5-HT plasma levels are not significantly different in IBS patients compared to controls. However, decreased 5-HIAA levels and 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio in IBS patients may reflect altered serotonin metabolism in IBS. Gender affects 5-HIAA levels in IBS patients, but no effects of drugs, such as SSRIs, or higher GI-symptom or psychological scores were found.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center