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The metabolic fate of infused L-tryptophan in men: possible clinical implications of the accumulation of circulating tryptophan and tryptophan metabolites


The metabolic fate of infused L-tryptophan in men: possible clinical implications of the accumulation of circulating tryptophan and tryptophan metabolites



Psychopharmacology 109(4): 422-432



ISSN/ISBN: 0033-3158

PMID: 1365857

DOI: 10.1007/bf02247718

L-Tryptophan (Trp) was widely used as a natural tool for the support of serotonin-mediated brain functions and as a challenge probe for the assessment of serotonin-mediated neuroendocrine responses. The metabolic fate of the administered Trp and the kinetics of the accumulation of Trp metabolites in the circulation, however, have never thoroughly been investigated. This study describes the time- and dose-dependent alterations in the plasma levels of various Trp metabolites and large neutral amino acids after the infusion of Trp to healthy young men (1, 3 and 5 g; placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over study during day- and night-time). The major Trp metabolites (kynurenine, indole acetic acid and indole lactic acid) in plasma increased dose-dependently but rather slowly after Trp administration to reach their maximal plasma levels (up to 10-fold after the 5 g dose) at about 3 h p.i., and remained at an elevated level (about 5-fold) for up to 8 h. N-acetyl-Trp and 5-hydroxy-Trp rose rapidly and massively after Trp infusions, at the 5 g dose more than 200- and 20-fold, respectively, and declined rapidly to about 5-fold baseline levels within 2 h. Whole blood serotonin levels were almost unaffected by the Trp infusions. A rather slow increase of 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid was seen, reaching maximum values (3-fold at the 5 g dose) at about 2 h after the infusion of Trp. Additionally, a dose-dependent rise of circulating melatonin was observed after L-Trp infusions. The administration of L-Trp caused a depletion of the concentrations of the other large neutral amino acids and a dose dependent decrease of the ratio between plasma tyrosine and the sum of the plasma concentrations of the other large neutral amino acids. Apparently, none of the existing pathways of peripheral Trp metabolism is saturated by its substrate, Trp in men. At least some of the central effects reported after L-Trp administration may be mediated by the Trp-stimulated formation of neuroactive metabolites or by the decreased availability of tyrosine for catecholamine synthesis.

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