Patho-physiologic Findings After Chronic Tryptophan Deficiency in Rats: A Model for Delayed Growth and Aging

Mech Ageing Dev. Mar-Apr 1976;5(2):109-24. doi: 10.1016/0047-6374(76)90012-9.


Long-Evans female rats three weeks, three months and 13-14 months of age were placed on tryptophan-deficient diets for periods ranging from a few months to nearly two years. Growth was interupted during the period of tryptophan-deficiency, but when the animals were returned to a complete diet, they gained weight and grew to normal size. Ability to reproduce, as indicated by litter production, was present at 17-28 months of age in rats which had been deprived of tryptophan, whereas no controls over 17 months of age produced any offspring. Other signs of delayed aging in the experimental group included, at advanced ages, greater longevity, as well as later onset in the appearance of obvious tumors, and better coat condition and hair regrowth. Many of these effects were also seen in pair-fed controls (fed a diet equal in amount to that eaten by the tryptophan-deprived rats, but with 1-tryptophan added). It is hypothesized that tryptophan deficiency delays growth, development and maturation of the central nervous system (CNS), in particular, by decreasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, for which tryptophan is the necessary precursor. In a parallel experiment, chronic treatment with d, 1-parachlorophenylalanine, an inhibitor of brain serotonin synthesis, from weaning until adulthood, also inhibited growth (body weight) and delayed sexual maturation (age of vaginal opening). These observations suggest that diets deficient in tryptophan or restricted in calories can affect maturation and aging by interfering with CNS protein synthesis, or neurotransmitter metabolism, or both.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / etiology
  • Growth Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Reproduction
  • Skin Diseases / etiology
  • Tryptophan / deficiency*


  • Tryptophan