• Tryptophan;
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan;
  • 5-Hydroxyin-doleacetic acid;
  • Aging;
  • Blood-brain transport

Abstract: The relations of plasma concentrations of substances claimed to influence brain tryptophan concentration (total tryptophan, free tryptophan, large neutral amino acids) with the concentrations of tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in the forebrain were investigated in rats of different ages (from 8 days to 16 months after birth). In brain, tryptophan fell by 46%, whereas 5-HT rose by 20% between 8 and 40/42 days after birth. Thereafter, the levels of both tryptophan and 5-HT remained essentially constant. Brain 5-HIAA showed a more complex pattern, rising by 63% between 8 and 19 days, falling between 19 and 40/42 days, and then gradually rising until values at 16 months were significantly higher than those at 40/42 days. In plasma, the concentrations of free fatty acids, free and total tryptophan, and large neutral amino acids all decreased between 8 and 19 days and thereafter either remained constant or increased slowly, the exception being total tryptophan values, which showed large increases between 28/30 and 60/70 days. Also, the unidirectional uptake of tryptophan from blood to brain was determined using a carotid artery injection technique. Uptake values obtained using a tracer concentration of tryptophan in the injection solution decreased progressively with age. Kinetic analysis of the data in terms of the Michaelis-Menten equation for carrier-mediated transport indicated significantly lower values for Vmax and KD (a component for nonsaturable transport) in 6-month-old rats as compared to 19-day-old suckling rats, whereas Km values were the same at both ages. Detailed analysis of these results indicated that the age-related changes in brain tryptophan were largely explicable in terms of plasma free tryptophan in association with blood-brain transport characteristics; moderate differences in concentration of amino acids competing for transport were without apparent effect between 19 days and 16 months. The larger differences between 8 and 19 days after birth could be important.