Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Melatonin precursor stimulates growth factor circuits in brain

Date:
February 5, 2010
Source:
Emory University
Summary:
N-acetylserotonin, the immediate precursor to melatonin, activates the same growth circuits in the brain as BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). The results have implications for how some antidepressants function and suggest that the molecules and pathways involved in mood regulation and circadian rhythms are intertwined.

Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have discovered unexpected properties for a precursor to melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep cycles.

Melatonin is produced from the neurotransmitter serotonin in a daily rhythm that peaks at night. Melatonin's immediate precursor, N-acetylserotonin, was not previously thought to have effects separate from those of melatonin or serotonin.

Now an Emory team has shown that N-acetylserotonin can stimulate the same circuits in the brain activated by the growth factor BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).

The results will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team was led by Keqiang Ye, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and P. Michael Iuvone, professor of pharmacology and director of research at Emory Eye Center. Researchers from Morehouse School of Medicine and the University of Wisconsin contributed to the paper.

The discovery has implications for the study of how some antidepressants function and may also explain previous observations that N-acetylserotonin has antidepressant activity in animal models of depression.

"Our results suggest that the molecules and pathways involved in mood regulation and circadian rhythms are intertwined," Ye says.

A lack of BDNF, which pushes brain cells to grow and helps them resist stress, is thought to lie behind depression and several neurodegenerative diseases. Ye and his colleagues have been searching for chemicals that can mimic BDNF by activating TrkB, the receptor for BDNF on cells' surfaces.

Several widely prescribed antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine/Prozac) increase levels of serotonin in the brain, but the connections between serotonin levels and depression are complex. Because antidepressants seem to take weeks to display their effects, scientists have proposed that their real targets are BDNF and TrkB.

"We were exploring whether the serotonin system is involved in TrkB signaling," Ye says. "We were surprised to find that N-acetylserotonin, but not serotonin or melatonin, can activate TrkB."

N-acetylserotonin could stimulate TrkB even when BDNF was not present, both in cell culture dishes and in mice, Ye and his colleagues found. It could also protect neurons from overstimulation in the same way that BDNF can.

Melatonin is produced at several sites in the body: the pineal gland, the retina and the intestine. One of the most common strains of laboratory mice (C57Bl6) is deficient in making N-acetylserotonin and melatonin and develops retinal degeneration.

The authors observed that in the retinas of mice that produce adequate melatonin, TrkB is turned on at night, a pattern that matches the appearance of N-acetylserotonin. However, the pattern of TrkB activation is flat in C57Bl6 melatonin-deficient mice.

Ye's laboratory is now investigating the mechanism by which N-acetylserotonin activates TrkB. He says that N-acetylserotonin has a short lifetime in the body but similar compounds that are more stable may be useful in treating neurological diseases.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and Research to Prevent Blindness.



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Emory University. The original article was written by Quinn Eastman. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Emory University. "Melatonin precursor stimulates growth factor circuits in brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100204101817.htm>.
Emory University. (2010, February 5). Melatonin precursor stimulates growth factor circuits in brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100204101817.htm
Emory University. "Melatonin precursor stimulates growth factor circuits in brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100204101817.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins