Postmortem and Regional Changes of Serotonin, 5-Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid, and Tryptophan in Brain


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael Stanley, Division of Pharmacology, Lafayette Clinic, 951 E. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48207, U.S.A.


Abstract: Using a specific and sensitive high pressure liquid chromatographic technique for the measurement of serotonin (5-HT), 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), and tryptophan (TRP), we found that there were no changes in 5-HT or 5-HIAA in the rat cortex when left in situ for 6 h at room temperature or 24 h at 4°C. Only a minimal 14% increase in 5-HT was observed after 24 h at 4°C in the striatum of the same animals. Concentrations of TRP, however, were increased significantly in both brain regions by these postmortem delay procedures. A second study revealed that there were significant regional 5-HT and 5-HIAA concentration differences within the cerebral cortex. The frontal cortex was shown to have the highest concentrations of 5-HT and 5-HIAA. Further, within the frontal cortex, 5-HIAA levels varied, showing apparent progressive rostral to caudal increases. 5-HT concentrations, however, remained constant within the frontal cortex. These results are discussed in reference to the conflicting reports of the previous human suicide and postmortem studies.