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J Neurochem. 2006 Nov;99(3):1019-31. Epub 2006 Sep 18.

Ontogeny of brain and blood serotonin levels in 5-HT receptor knockout mice: potential relevance to the neurobiology of autism.

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Department of Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.


The most consistent neurochemical finding in autism has been elevated group mean levels of blood platelet 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin). The origin and significance of this platelet hyperserotonemia remain poorly understood. The 5-HT(1A) receptor plays important roles in the developing brain and is also expressed in the gut, the main source of platelet 5-HT. Post-natal tissue levels of 5-HT, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) and tryptophan were examined in the brain, duodenum and blood of 5-HT(1A) receptor-knockout and wild-type mice. At 3 days after birth, the knockout mice had lower mean brain 5-HT levels and normal mean platelet 5-HT levels. Also, at 3 days after birth, the mean tryptophan levels in the brain, duodenum and blood of the knockout mice were around 30% lower than those of the wild-type mice. By 2 weeks after birth, the mean brain 5-HT levels of the knockout mice normalized, but their mean platelet 5-HT levels became 24% higher than normal. The possible causes of these dynamic shifts were explored by examining correlations between central and peripheral levels of 5-HT, 5-HIAA and tryptophan. The results are discussed in relation to the possible role of 5-HT in the ontogeny of autism.

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