A structural approach into human tryptophan hydroxylase and its implications for the regulation of serotonin biosynthesis

Curr Med Chem. 2001 Jul;8(9):1077-91. doi: 10.2174/0929867013372616.


Tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) catalyzes the 5-hydroxylation of tryptophan, which is the first step in the biosynthesis of indoleamines (serotonin and melatonin). Serotonin functions mainly as a neurotransmitter, whereas melatonin is the principal hormone secreted by the pineal gland. TPH belongs to the family of the aromatic amino acid hydroxylases, including phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), which all have a strict requirement for dioxygen, non-heme iron (II) and tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4). During the last three years there has been a formidable increase in the amount of structural information about PAH and TH, which has provided new insights into the active site structure, the binding of substrates, inhibitors and pterins, as well as on the effect of disease-causing mutations in these hydroxylases. Although structural information about TPH is not yet available, the high sequence homology between the three mammalian hydroxylases, notably at the catalytic domains, and the similarity of the reactions that they catalyze, indicate that they share a similar 3D-structure and a common catalytic mechanism. Thus, we have prepared a model of the structure of TPH based on the crystal structures of TH and PAH. This structural model provides a frame for understanding the specific interactions of TPH with L-tryptophan and substrate analogues, BH4 and cofactor analogues, L-DOPA and catecholamines. The interactions of these ligands with the enzyme are discussed focusing on the physiological and pharmacological regulation of serotonin biosynthesis, notably by tryptophan supplementation therapy and substitution therapy with tetrahydrobiopterin analogues (positive effects), as well as the effect of catecholamines on TPH activity in L-DOPA treated Parkinson's disease patients (enzyme inhibition).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Enzyme Repression
  • Enzyme Stability
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Conformation
  • Recombinant Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Tryptophan / metabolism
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / chemistry*
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / physiology


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tryptophan
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase