5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): Natural Occurrence, Analysis, Biosynthesis, Biotechnology, Physiology and Toxicology

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 26;22(1):181. doi: 10.3390/ijms22010181.


L-5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is both a drug and a natural component of some dietary supplements. 5-HTP is produced from tryptophan by tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH), which is present in two isoforms (TPH1 and TPH2). Decarboxylation of 5-HTP yields serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) that is further transformed to melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). 5-HTP plays a major role both in neurologic and metabolic diseases and its synthesis from tryptophan represents the limiting step in serotonin and melatonin biosynthesis. In this review, after an look at the main natural sources of 5-HTP, the chemical analysis and synthesis, biosynthesis and microbial production of 5-HTP by molecular engineering will be described. The physiological effects of 5-HTP are discussed in both animal studies and human clinical trials. The physiological role of 5-HTP in the treatment of depression, anxiety, panic, sleep disorders, obesity, myoclonus and serotonin syndrome are also discussed. 5-HTP toxicity and the occurrence of toxic impurities present in tryptophan and 5-HTP preparations are also discussed.

Keywords: 5-hydroxytryptophan; animal; biosynthetic pathways; human; microbial production; natural sources; physiological effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / analysis*
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Biotechnology
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism
  • Mental Disorders / pathology
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Serotonin Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Serotonin Syndrome / metabolism
  • Serotonin Syndrome / pathology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / metabolism
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / pathology
  • Toxicological Phenomena*


  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan