Serotonin has been implicated to play an important role in regulating emotions and behavior, and it is well accepted that the platelet serotonergic system mirrors the presynaptic central serotonergic system. Since prevalence of psychiatric problems increases with age and women are known to be more vulnerable than men, the present investigation was carried out to study the relationship between serotonin activity and age in women. Levels of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) and its metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) were measured in platelets and plasma in women (n = 49) aged 40-84 years (30 women aged 40-60 years and 19 women aged 61-84 years). There was a significant age difference between the two groups (mean: 47.6 ± 5.91 years in the younger and 73.0 ± 6.83 years in the older women, respectively, p < 0.00001). Platelet 5-HT as well as 5-HIAA levels were significantly higher in older women as compared to those in the younger women (89.41 ± 21.95 ng/lO8 platelets in younger vs. 112.9 ± 36.07 in older women, p < 0.02, and 1.20 ± 1.10 in younger vs. 2.19 ± 1.88 ng/108 platelets in older women, p < 0.05, respectively). Pearson correlation coefficients determined in the combined group (n = 49) showed a significant positive correlation between platelet 5-HT and age (r = 0.31, p < 0.03). Plasma 5-HT levels on the other hand were lower in older women compared to those in the younger women (4.50 ± 3.20 in younger vs. 1.04 ± 1.28 ng/ml plasma in older women, p < 0.0001) and a significant negative correlation was observed between plasma 5-HT and age (r = -0.44, p < 0.002). Plasma 5-HIAA concentration did not differ between the two groups. Platelet 5-HT levels in the younger group were independent of ethnicity. Since high serotonin activity has also been associated with psychiatric problems, our results of increased concentration of platelet 5-HT as well as 5-HIAA with age may have implications in predisposing aging women to behavioral/psychiatric problems.
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