Suppression of the immune response by drugs interfering with the metabolism of serotonin

Experientia. 1984 Oct 15;40(10):1153-5. doi: 10.1007/BF01971469.


The work was based on the assumption that neurohumoral control of the immune response, particularly in stressed animals, involves central serotoninergic mechanisms. Rats immunized with sheep erythrocytes were stressed by repeated restraints and/or treated with a precursor of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptophan, 5-HTP) or with an inhibitor of serotonin synthesis (parachlorophenylalanine, PCPA). As expected, repeated stresses reduced the plaque-forming cell (PFC) response. Treatment with 5-HTP also reduced the PFC response, and potentiated the immunosuppressive effect of stress. This was accompanied by increased metabolism of serotonin in the brain, as indicated by increased concentration of its metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), in cerebral tissue. Treatment with PCPA also suppressed the PFC response, but this suppression was accompanied by decreased levels of brain serotonin and of 5-HIAA. Plasma corticosterone levels were elevated in rats treated with PCPA. It seems that putative central effects of PCPA on serotoninergic regulation of the immune response were outweighed by its effects on corticosterone secretion and/or on lymphoid cells.

MeSH terms

  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects*
  • Antibody-Producing Cells / drug effects
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Fenclonine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology*


  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Serotonin
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan
  • Fenclonine