- D.J. Walther
- M. Bader
- Biochemical Pharmacology
- Biochem Pharmacol 66 (9): 1673-1680
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptophan, 5-HT) is a neurotransmitter synthesized in the raphe nuclei of the brain stem and involved in the central control of food intake, sleep, and mood. Accordingly, dysfunction of the serotonin system has been implicated in the pathogenesis of psychiatric diseases. At the same time, serotonin is a peripheral hormone produced mainly by enterochromaffin cells in the intestine and stored in platelets, where it is involved in vasoconstriction, haemostasis, and the control of immune responses. Moreover, serotonin is a precursor for melatonin and is therefore synthesized in high amounts in the pineal gland. Tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) catalyzes the rate limiting step in 5-HT synthesis. Until recently, only one gene encoding TPH was described for vertebrates. By gene targeting, we functionally ablated this gene in mice. To our surprise, the resulting animals, although being deficient for serotonin in the periphery and in the pineal gland, exhibited close to normal levels of 5-HT in the brain stem. This led us to the detection of a second TPH gene in the genome of humans, mice, and rats, called TPH2. This gene is predominantly expressed in the brain stem, while the classical TPH gene, now called TPH1, is expressed in the gut, pineal gland, spleen, and thymus. These findings clarify puzzling data, which have been collected over the last decades about partially purified TPH proteins with different characteristics and justify a new concept of the serotonin system. In fact, there are two serotonin systems in vertebrates, independently regulated and with distinct functions.