Characterization of serotonin and N-acetylserotonin systems in the human epidermis and skin cells

Andrzej T. Slominski, Tae Kang Kim, Konrad Kleszczyński, Igor Semak, Zorica Janjetovic, Trevor Sweatman, Cezary Skobowiat, Jeffery D. Steketee, Zongtao Lin, Arnold Postlethwaite, Wei Li, Russel J. Reiter, Desmond J. Tobin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) activity was detected in cultured epidermal melanocytes and dermal fibroblasts with respective Km of 5.08 and 2.83 mM and Vmax of 80.5 and 108.0 µmol/min. Low but detectable TPH activity was also seen in cultured epidermal keratinocytes. Serotonin and/or its metabolite and precursor to melatonin, N-acetylserotonin (NAS), were identified by LC/MS in human epidermis and serum. Endogenous epidermal levels were 113.18 ± 13.34 and 43.41 ± 12.45 ng/mg protein for serotonin (n = 8/8) and NAS (n = 10/13), respectively. Their production was independent of race, gender, and age. NAS was also detected in human serum (n = 13/13) at a concentration 2.44 ± 0.45 ng/mL, while corresponding serotonin levels were 295.33 ± 17.17 ng/mL (n = 13/13). While there were no differences in serum serotonin levels, serum NAS levels were slightly higher in females. Immunocytochemistry studies showed localization of serotonin to epidermal and follicular keratinocytes, eccrine glands, mast cells, and dermal fibrocytes. Endogenous production of serotonin in cultured melanocytes, keratinocytes, and dermal fibroblasts was modulated by UVB. In conclusion, serotonin and NAS are produced endogenously in the epidermal, dermal, and adnexal compartments of human skin and in cultured skin cells. NAS is also detectable in human serum. Both serotonin and NAS inhibited melanogenesis in human melanotic melanoma at concentrations of 10−4-10−3 M. They also inhibited growth of melanocytes. Melanoma cells were resistant to NAS inhibition, while serotonin inhibited cell growth only at 10−3 M. In summary, we characterized a serotonin-NAS system in human skin that is a part of local neuroendocrine system regulating skin homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12626
JournalJournal of pineal research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • N-acetylserotonin
  • epidermis
  • serotonin
  • skin cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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