The tryptophan (TRP) depletion paradigm has been employed to investigate mood and behavioral effects of acutely lowering plasma TRP, and presumably brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) levels through administration of a special diet and/or amino acid drink. Our goal was to test the assumption that a corresponding fall in central levels of TRP and 5-HT (measured by its major metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid [5-HIAA]) occurs during the standard execution of this method in healthy adult subjects. Three males and two females completed the protocol, which included a one-day low-TRP diet and a TRP-free amino acid drink. Lumbar puncture was performed, with placement of an indwelling catheter connected to a peristaltic pump and fraction collector. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was sampled continuously for a 13.5- hour period (before, during, and after the drink) with fractions removed every 15 minutes. Plasma samples were simultaneously obtained. CSF TRP levels and plasma TRP levels were highly correlated, falling a mean of 92% and 85% from baseline, respectively. CSF nadirs were reached several hours after plasma nadirs. CSF 5-HIAA decreased modestly (24% to 40%, mean 31% change from baseline), with lowest concentrations observed 8-12 hours after the amino acid drink. These data suggest that TRP depletion results in substantial declines in central 5-HT turnover.
Carpenter, L. L., Anderson, G. M., Pelton, G. H., Gudin, J. A., Kirwin, P. D. S., Price, L. H., … McDougle, C. J. (1998). Tryptophan depletion during continuous CSF sampling in healthy human subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology, 19(1), 26–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0893-133X(97)00198-X