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Prog Neurobiol. 1982;19(1-2):117-39.

Tryptamine: a neuromodulator or neurotransmitter in mammalian brain?


Tryptamine synthesized by decarboxylation of L-tryptophan occurs as an endogenous constituent of mammalian brain albeit at very low concentrations (low ng/g range). It is primarily metabolized by oxidative deamination by MAO and possesses an extremely rapid turnover and half-life. Subcellular localization appears to be in nerve terminals and it is releasable by electrical or potassium evoked depolarization. Neuropharmacological and electrophysiological data strongly suggest the existence of post-synaptic receptors for tryptamine independent of those for 5HT. There may exist a rostrally projecting neuronal tryptamine containing system arising from cell bodies in or close to the nucleus raphé medianus. The demonstration of specific receptors for tryptamine in the CNS strongly indicates a transmitter role, although a strong case can be made for a role as a modifier of central 5HT systems. The possibility also exists that 5HT and tryptamine may be mediators of functionally opposite neuronal pathways. Whatever the role of tryptamine in the CNS it is clear that it not simply present as an accident of metabolism or a "biological artefact." The indications are that it possesses important functions in central neurotransmission.

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