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Low tryptophan diet increases stress-sensitivity, but does not affect habituation in rats.

Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, Graduate School of Behavioral Cognitive Neurosciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Neurochemistry International (Impact Factor: 2.66). 02/2008; 52(1-2):272-81. DOI:10.1016/j.neuint.2007.05.022
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cerebral dysfunction of 5-HT (serotonin) has been associated with stress response and with affective disorders. Stress alone is insufficient to induce depression, since only a minor proportion of subjects that have experienced stressful life events develop depressive episodes. We investigated whether long-term brain 5-HT depletion induced in rats by a diet with low content of its precursor tryptophan affects stress-responsiveness in rats. Stress-sensitivity was measured through various physiological parameters and by measuring the rats' response to acoustic stimuli. One group of rats was subjected to daily acoustic stimulus sessions for 5 days. Other groups received both immobilization stress and acoustic stimulus sessions daily for either 9 days (chronic experiment) or 1 day (acute experiment). A low tryptophan diet led to decreases in plasma tryptophan levels, low ratio of tryptophan/large neutral amino acid, whole blood 5-HT, and neuronal 5-HT content in the Dorsal and Median Raphe Nuclei, as well as altered c-fos expression in the brain. Without concomitant immobilization, the diet alone did not affect reactivity and habituation to acoustic stimuli, although plasma corticosterone levels, but not the adrenal weights, were increased on day 5. Low tryptophan and chronic immobilization stress together with the acoustic testing procedure increased adrenal weight, plasma corticosterone levels and reactivity to the acoustic stimuli, but not the rate of habituation to acoustic stimuli. These results show that cerebral dysfunction of serotonin achieved through a low tryptophan diet, increases the sensitivity of rats to external and stressful stimuli, but does not impair the capacity to adapt to these stimuli. Accordingly, brain-serotonin modulates reactivity to stress, but not stress coping.

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