Biological Clocks in the Duodenum and the Diurnal Regulation of Duodenal and Plasma Serotonin

Elizabeth Ebert-Zavos, Maria Horvat-Gordon, Alexander Taylor, Paul A. Bartell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Serotonin in blood plasma is primarily synthesized in the duodenum, as brain derived serotonin does not cross the blood-brain barrier. Because serotonin in the brain and retina is synthesized under the control of a circadian clock, we sought to determine if a circadian clock in the duodenum regulates serotonin synthesis and release in blood. We examined gene expression in the duodenum of chickens at different times of the day and found that the duodenum rhythmically expresses molecular circadian clock genes and genes controlling serotonin biosynthesis, specifically tryptophan hydroxylase, in a light dark cycle (LD). Analysis of the duodenum and blood plasma showed that the amount of serotonin in the duodenum varies across the day and that serotonin profiles in blood plasma are also rhythmic in LD, but were not rhythmic in constant darkness. Because serotonin in the gut affects duodenal nutrient absorption and gut motility, the control of serotonin production in the duodenum by LD cycles could provide an additional mechanism by which the external environment controls nutrient uptake and digestive function. The diurnal regulation of plasma serotonin may also serve as an additional biochemical signal in the blood encoding time and could be used by target tissues to indicate the status of nutrient absorption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere58477
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 30 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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