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ID 114548
Sabir, Marya S. Arizona State University
Haussler, Mark R. University of Arizona
Mallick, Sanchita Arizona State University
Lucas, Daniel A. Arizona State University
Haussler, Carol A. University of Arizona
Whitfield, G. Kerr University of Arizona
Jurutka, Peter W. Arizona State University|University of Arizona
Autism spectrum disorders
Neuropsychiatric disorders
Social behavior
Tryptophan metabolism
Vitamin D receptor
Content Type
Journal Article
Background: Diminished brain levels of two neurohormones, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT; serotonin) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25D; active vitamin D metabolite), are proposed to play a role in the atypical social behaviors associated with psychological conditions including autism spectrum disorders and depression. We reported previously that 1,25D induces expression of tryptophan hydroxylase-2 (TPH2), the initial and rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway to 5-HT, in cultured rat serotonergic neuronal cells. However, other enzymes and transporters in the pathway of tryptophan metabolism had yet to be examined with respect to the actions of vitamin D. Herein, we probed the response of neuronal cells to 1,25D by quantifying mRNA expression of serotonin synthesis isozymes, TPH1 and TPH2, as well as expression of the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT), and the enzyme responsible for serotonin catabolism, monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A). We also assessed the direct production of serotonin in cell culture in response to 1,25D.
Results: Employing quantitative real-time PCR, we demonstrate that TPH-1/-2 mRNAs are 28- to 33-fold induced by 10 nM 1,25D treatment of cultured rat serotonergic neuronal cells (RN46A-B14), and the enhancement of TPH2 mRNA by 1,25D is dependent on the degree of neuron-like character of the cells. In contrast, examination of SERT, the gene product of which is a target for the SSRI-class of antidepressants, and MAO-A, which encodes the predominant catabolic enzyme in the serotonin pathway, reveals that their mRNAs are 51–59% repressed by 10 nM 1,25D treatment of RN46AB14 cells. Finally, serotonin concentrations are significantly enhanced (2.9-fold) by 10 nM 1,25D in this system.
Conclusions: These results are consistent with the concept that vitamin D maintains extracellular fluid serotonin concentrations in the brain, thereby offering an explanation for how vitamin D could influence the trajectory and development of neuropsychiatric disorders. Given the profile of gene regulation in cultured RN46A-B14 serotonergic neurons, we conclude that 1,25D acts not only to induce serotonin synthesis, but also functions at an indirect, molecular-genomic stage to mimic SSRIs and MAO inhibitors, likely elevating serotonin in the CNS. These data suggest that optimal vitamin D status may contribute to improving behavioral pathophysiologies resulting from dysregulation of serotonergic neurotransmission.
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Genes & Nutrition
Springer Nature|BioMed Central
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© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
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Medical Sciences