, Volume 16, Issue 3-4, pp 199-205

The Effect of Copper on (3H)-Tryptophan Metabolism in Organ Cultures of Rat Pineal Glands

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Abstract

Copper toxicity has been implicated in various neurodegenerative disorders such as Wilson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Free copper in the brain is toxic and leads to neuronal and cellular damage, through free radical generation. Melatonin has been investigated as a possible copper ion chelator. Melatonin could prevent copper-induced neuronal and cellular damage through binding with copper and preventing copper-induced free radical generation. The effect of copper on pineal indolamine synthesis has not been studied extensively. In the present study, copper (2 mg/kg) and melatonin (12 mg/kg) were administered daily to Wistar rats for a 2-week and 6-week period. Pineal organ culture was utilized to monitor pineal indolamine synthesis. The pineals from the 2-week copper/melatonin-treated group showed a statistically significant decrease in 5-methoxytryptophol synthesis (p < 0.01), compared to the pineals from the copper-treated group. Conversly, in the 6-week experiment, 5-methoxytryptophol synthesis was increased in both the copper- and copper/melatonin-treated groups. There was a statistically significant decrease in the N-acetyl serotonin level in the pineals from the 6-week copper-treated animals, as compared to the control- and copper/melatonin-treated group (p < 0.01). These results imply that copper reduces N-acetyltransferase activity, which results in a decrease in N-acetyl serotonin synthesis. Melatonin when coadministered with copper appears to prevent the N-acetyltransferase inhibition by copper. Copper exerts contradictory effects on 5-methoxytryptophol synthesis. Further investigations need to be carried out to examine the effects of copper on the pineal enzymes.