Genetic disruption of both tryptophan hydroxylase genes dramatically reduces serotonin and affects behavior in models sensitive to antidepressants

PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3301. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003301. Epub 2008 Oct 15.


The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) plays an important role in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. The biosynthesis of serotonin is regulated by two rate-limiting enzymes, tryptophan hydroxylase-1 and -2 (TPH1 and TPH2). We used a gene-targeting approach to generate mice with selective and complete elimination of the two known TPH isoforms. This resulted in dramatically reduced central 5-HT levels in Tph2 knockout (TPH2KO) and Tph1/Tph2 double knockout (DKO) mice; and substantially reduced peripheral 5-HT levels in DKO, but not TPH2KO mice. Therefore, differential expression of the two isoforms of TPH was reflected in corresponding depletion of 5-HT content in the brain and periphery. Surprisingly, despite the prominent and evolutionarily ancient role that 5-HT plays in both vertebrate and invertebrate physiology, none of these mutations resulted in an overt phenotype. TPH2KO and DKO mice were viable and normal in appearance. Behavioral alterations in assays with predictive validity for antidepressants were among the very few phenotypes uncovered. These behavioral changes were subtle in the TPH2KO mice; they were enhanced in the DKO mice. Herein, we confirm findings from prior descriptions of TPH1 knockout mice and present the first reported phenotypic evaluations of Tph2 and Tph1/Tph2 knockout mice. The behavioral effects observed in the TPH2 KO and DKO mice strongly confirm the role of 5-HT and its synthetic enzymes in the etiology and treatment of affective disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Gene Expression
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Animal
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Serotonin / biosynthesis*
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / deficiency
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / genetics*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Serotonin
  • Tph1 protein, mouse
  • Tph2 protein, mouse
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase