The State of the Serotonin Transporter Protein in the Platelets of Patients with Somatoform Disorders

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The role of the serotonin transporter protein (STP) in the development of somatoform disorders was addressed in a correlational study of the levels of immunoreactive STP (IR-STP) using site-specific antibodies against the least conserved (among a group of other cotransporters) epitope at the C-terminal of STP and the level of anxiety symptoms in patients with somatoform disorders. A total of 22 patients were studied, with DSM-IV diagnoses of somatoform disorders, along with 32 mentally healthy subjects of comparable age and sex. Immunoblotting of IR-STP from patients from healthy donors produced a diffuse band between 68 and 105 kDal and a clear narrow band at 43 kDal. The 43-kDal IR-STP protein was almost completely absent from most patients, as compared with the levels of this protein in healthy donors. This result suggests an abnormality of STP processing or, perhaps, alternative splicing of the gene encoding STP in patients with somatoform disorders, and this appears to reflect the dysfunction in serotoninergic transmission in the CNS in these patients.

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