Blood 5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid and melatonin levels in patients with either Huntington's disease or chronic brain injury

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Following a study of oxidative tryptophan metabolism to kynurenines, we have now analysed the blood of patients with either Huntington's disease or traumatic brain injury for levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) and melatonin. There were no differences in the baseline levels of these compounds between patients and healthy controls. Tryptophan depletion did not reduce 5-HT levels in either the controls or in the patients with Huntington's disease, but it increased 5-HT levels in patients with brain injury and lowered 5-HIAA in the control and Huntington's disease groups. An oral tryptophan load did not modify 5-HT levels in the patients but increased 5-HT in control subjects. The tryptophan load restored 5-HIAA to baseline levels in controls and patients with brain injury, but not in those with Huntington's disease, in whom 5-HIAA remained significantly depressed. Melatonin levels increased on tryptophan loading in all subjects, with levels in patients with brain injury increasing significantly more than in controls. Baseline levels of neopterin and lipid peroxidation products were higher in patients than in controls. It is concluded that both groups of patients exhibit abnormalities in tryptophan metabolism, which may be related to increased inflammatory status and oxidative stress. Interactions between the kynurenine, 5-HT and melatonin pathways should be considered when interpreting changes of tryptophan metabolism.

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