Tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH)1 catalyzes the biosynthesis of serotonin (5-hydroxytrptamine; 5-HT) in enterochromaffin (EC) cells, the predominant source of gut 5-HT. Secreted 5-HT regulates various gut functions through diverse 5-HT receptor (5-HTR) families, and 5-HT transporter (5-HTT) sequesters its activity via uptake into surrounding cells. In inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) mucosal 5-HT signaling is altered, including upregulated EC cell numbers and 5-HT levels. We examined key mucosal 5-HT signaling components and blood 5-HT levels and, as part of a pilot study, investigated the association between 5-HTT gene-linked polymorphic region (5HTTLPR) and Crohn’s disease (CD).
In the context of inflammation, colonic expressions of TPH1, 5-HTT and 5-HTRs were studied in CD patients (n=15) and healthy controls (HC; n=10) using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). We also investigated 5HTTLPR in 40 CD patients and HC utilizing PCR and measured platelet-poor plasma (PPP) and plasma 5-HT concentrations.
Compared with HC, inflammation in CD patients was associated with elevated TPH1, 5-HTR3, 5-HTR4, 5-HTR7 and downregulated 5-HTT expressions. In our second cohort of participants, significantly higher PPP and plasma 5-HT levels and higher S-genotype (L/S+S/S) than L/L genotype were observed in CD patients compared with HC.
Our results suggest that augmented mucosal 5-HT signaling and specific 5-HTTLPR genotype–associated decreased efficiency in 5-HT reuptake, the latter through increased 5-HT availability, may contribute to inflammation in CD patients. These findings revealed important information on various components of 5-HT signaling in intestinal inflammation which may ultimately lead to effective strategies targeting this pathway in IBD.