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Serotonin metabolites in mollusks suggest pathways for human therapies

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- From mollusks to mammals, newly discovered chemical pathways of serotonin in the nervous system are paving a path toward future pharmaceutical treatments for depression and other disorders.

"Understanding novel serotonin pathways in a tissue-dependent manner is useful for the development of pharmaceuticals intended to preserve serotonergic signaling," said Jeffrey N. Stuart, a doctoral student in the department of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Recent findings by Stuart and his Illinois colleagues were the topic of a talk, "Characterization of Novel Serotonin Biochemical Pathways for Potential Therapeutic Applications," last month at the American Chemical Society's 228th National Meeting in Philadelphia and of a paper in the August issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry.

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) is a neurotransmitter present throughout the body. When nerve cells containing it are activated, serotonin is released. It travels and stimulates other nerve cells, enabling their message to spread through the nervous system.

"When serotonin is released, you do not want its signal to last forever," said Jonathan Sweedler, professor of chemistry and Stuart's academic adviser. The signal caused by serotonin is turned off by enzymes that inactivate it by converting it into various metabolites, such as the ones discovered by Stuart.

Disruptions of serotonin signaling pathways are thought to occur in disorders such as depression, anxiety, sudden infant death syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and irritable bowel syndrome. Many pharmaceutical treatments restore the pathways by preventing the cellular uptake of serotonin, where it is converted to other metabolites, or by directly inhibiting the enzymes responsible for the molecular conversion.

Because serotonin is distributed throughout the body, pharmaceuticals intended to correct serotonin im
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Contact: Molly McElroy, News Bureau
jebarlow@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
9-Sep-2004


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