• aluminium;
  • calcium;
  • lithium;
  • melatonin;
  • potassium;
  • serotonin;
  • sodium

In the present study, we investigated the ability of serotonin and melatonin to bind metals that occur naturally in the brain. An electrochemical technique called adsorptive cathodic stripping voltammetry (AdCSV) was employed to study the metal–serotonin or metal–melatonin interactions. The results show that both serotonin and melatonin form stable complexes with lithium and potassium, with serotonin favouring lithium over potassium, and melatonin favouring potassium over lithium. Coordination between either serotonin or melatonin and calcium was not favoured. The stability of the complexes formed between serotonin and the metals decreased with the metals as follows: Li+>K+>Al3+>Na+>Ca2+. The trend for melatonin–metal complexes was K+>Li+>Na+>Al3+>Ca2+. The binding and stable complex formation between both ligands, serotonin and melatonin with lithium, potassium and sodium is of biological importance. The binding of serotonin to lithium could provide an explanation for the therapeutic effects of lithium in depression treatment, whereas the binding of aluminium by melatonin could provide insight into the role of this element in the aetiology of Alzheimer's disease.