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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Relationships among body mass, brain size, gut length, and blood tryptophan and serotonin in young wild-type mice

Ricardo Albay1, Angela Chen1, George M Anderson2, Maggie Tatevosyan1 and Skirmantas Janušonis1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, USA

2 Yale University Child Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

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BMC Physiology 2009, 9:4  doi:10.1186/1472-6793-9-4

Published: 25 March 2009



The blood hyperserotonemia of autism is one of the most consistent biological findings in autism research, but its causes remain unclear. A major difficulty in understanding this phenomenon is the lack of information on fundamental interactions among the developing brain, gut, and blood in the mammalian body. We therefore investigated relationships among the body mass, the brain mass, the volume of the hippocampal complex, the gut length, and the whole-blood levels of tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) in young, sexually immature wild-type mice.


Three-dimensional reconstructions of the hippocampal complex were obtained from serial, Nissl-stained sections and the gut was allowed to attain its maximal relaxed length prior to measurements. The tryptophan and 5-HT concentrations in the blood were assessed with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and the sex of mice was confirmed by genotyping. Statistical analysis yielded information about correlative relationships among all studied variables. It revealed a strong negative correlation between blood 5-HT concentration and body mass and a strong negative correlation between the brain mass/body mass ratio and gut length. Also, a negative correlation was found between the volume of the hippocampal complex and blood tryptophan concentration.


The study provides information on the covariance structure of several central and peripheral variables related to the body serotonin systems. In particular, the results indicate that body mass should be included as a covariate in studies on platelet 5-HT levels and they also suggest a link between brain growth and gut length.