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Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), is a monomer biogenic amine neurotransmitter that is a product of tryptophan metabolism. The majority of serotonin which is present in humans is located in the enterochromaffin cells of the digestive tract (gastrointestinal tract), here it is responsible for regulating movement of the gut. The remainder of the body’s serotonin is synthesized by serotonergic neurons within the central nervous system, these are known to have a number of different functions such as regulating sleep, appetite and mood. Serotonin is also found to have some cognitive functions, such as learning and memory. The modulation of serotonin at synapses junction are thought to be a major action of many classes of pharmacological antidepressants.
Serotonin is mainly metabolised to 5-HIAA and this is chiefly carried out by the liver. Metabolism involves an initial oxidation step by monoamine oxidase in order to form the corresponding aldehyde. This is then followed by oxidation of aldehyde dehydrogenase to 5-HIAA, the indole acetic acid derivative. The latter is predominately excreted by the kidneys.
Serotonin is generally an example of an inhibitory neurotransmitter and medications that are used to increase the availability and uptake of serotonin are vital in treating depression. Serotonin can also be taken up by platelets, which are able to store this hormone. When the platelets attach to a blood clot, this triggers the release serotonin which is vital in acting as a vasoconstrictor and a clotting factor to promote healing.