Simplified dietary acute tryptophan depletion: effects of a novel amino acid mixture on the neurochemistry of C57BL/6J mice

  • Cristina L. Sánchez RWTH Aachen University Duke University Medical Center
  • Amanda E. D. Van Swearingen
  • Andrew E. Arrant
  • Caroline S. Biskup
  • Cynthia M. Kuhn
  • Florian D. Zepf
Keywords: acute tryptophan depletion, dopamine, amino acid, formulation, mice, serotonin.


Background: Diet and nutrition can impact on the biological processes underpinning neuropsychiatric disorders. Amino acid (AA) mixtures lacking a specific neurotransmitter precursor can change the levels of brain serotonin (5-HT) or dopamine (DA) in the central nervous system. The availability of these substances within the brain is determined by the blood–brain barrier (BBB) that restricts the access of peripheral AA into the brain. AA mixtures lacking tryptophan (TRP) compete with endogenous TRP for uptake into the brain across the BBB, which in turn leads to a decrease in central nervous 5-HT synthesis.

Objective: The present study compared the effects of a simplified acute tryptophan depletion (SATD) mixture in mice on blood and brain serotonergic and dopaminergic metabolites to those of a commonly used acute tryptophan depletion mixture (ATD Moja-De) and its TRP-balanced control (BAL).

Design: The SATD formula is composed of only three large neutral AAs: phenylalanine (PHE), leucine (LEU), and isoleucine (ILE). BAL, ATD Moja-De, or SATD formulas were delivered to adult male C57BL/6J mice by gavage. TRP, monoamines, and their metabolites were quantified in blood and brain regions (hippocampus, frontal cortex, amygdala, caudate putamen, and nucleus accumbens).

Results: Both ATD Moja-De and SATD significantly decreased levels of serum and brain TRP, as well as brain 5-HIAA and 5-HT compared with BAL. SATD reduced HVA levels in caudate but did not alter total DA levels or DOPAC. SATD decreased TRP and serotonergic metabolites comparably to ATD Moja-De administration.

Conclusion: A simplified and more palatable combination of AAs can manipulate serotonergic function and might be useful to reveal underlying monoamine-related mechanisms contributing to different neuropsychiatric disorders.

Keywords: acute tryptophan depletion; dopamine; amino acid; formulation; mice; serotonin (Published: 13 August 2015) Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2015, 59: 27424 -


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Author Biography

Cristina L. Sánchez, RWTH Aachen University Duke University Medical Center

Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy (RWTH Aachen University)

Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology (Duke University Medical Center)

Postdoctoral Research Associate

How to Cite
Sánchez C. L., Van Swearingen A. E. D., Arrant A. E., Biskup C. S., Kuhn C. M., & Zepf F. D. (2015). Simplified dietary acute tryptophan depletion: effects of a novel amino acid mixture on the neurochemistry of C57BL/6J mice. Food & Nutrition Research, 59.
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