Acute tryptophan depletion in rats alters the relationship between cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism independent of central serotonin

E.L. van Donkelaar*, L. Ferrington, A. Blokland, H.W.M. Steinbusch, J.H.H.J. Prickaerts, P.A. Kelly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Acute tryptophan depletion (ATD) decreases the 5-HT precursor tryptophan (TRP) in blood and is used both clinically and preclinically to investigate the involvement of 5-HT in the development of depressive symptomatology. Depression is associated with both central 5-HT dysfunction and abnormalities in the normal relationship between regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) and glucose metabolism (CMRG). In this study, ATD was applied in Wistar rats to investigate the cerebrovascular effects of acute changes in peripheral TRP. Rats were orally fed with a protein-carbohydrate mixture, either containing or lacking TRP. Four hours later, CBF or CMRG was measured by quantitative autoradiographic imaging in 43 brain regions of interest (ROI). In plasma, ATD resulted in a 40% reduction in the ratio of TRP to the sum of other large neutral amino acids, but had no measurable effect upon TRP or 5-HT levels in hippocampus or prefrontal cortex. Nevertheless, ATD significantly reduced local CBF in 11 of the 43 brain ROIs, while local CMRG remained unchanged. Global analysis of all 43 ROIs revealed a close correlation between CBF and CMRG within both treatment groups. However, the overall ratio (=slope) after ATD (m=1.07) was significantly decreased compared to the control group (m=1.27), indicating a state of relative cerebral oligaemia. Since ATD induced a significant lowering of peripheral TRP, without affecting central TRP or 5-HT concentrations, the decrease in CBF and global change in the flow-metabolism relationship cannot be directly attributed to decreases in brain TRP availability. This could be explained if the raphe were selectively vulnerable to ATD, but the exact mechanism remains unknown. Nevertheless, these data suggest that cerebrovascular disturbances should be considered as a potential contributory factor in studies of serotonergic dysfunction, including depression, with important implications for imaging studies that use CBF alone as a measure of neuronal function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-694
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Acute tryptophan depletion in rats alters the relationship between cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism independent of central serotonin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this