Cerebrospinal fluid monoamine and metabolite concentrations and aggression in rats

Bea J. van der Vegt, Natasja Lieuwes, Thomas I.F.H. Cremers, Sietse F. de Boer, J.M. Koolhaas

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In humans and other primates low cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of the major serotonin (5-HT) metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) have been correlated to high aggressiveness. This finding forms the basis of the 5-HT deficiency hypothesis of aggression. Surprisingly, this correlation has not been confirmed in rodents so far, while manipulation studies aimed to investigate the link between 5-HT and aggressive behaviour are mostly carried out in rodents. In this study the relation between aggression and CSF monoamine and metabolite concentrations was investigated in male Wildtype Groningen rats. In sharp contrast to the hypothesis and our expectation, a clear positive correlation was found between the individual level of trait-like aggressiveness and CSF concentrations of 5-HT, 5-HIAA, norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA), and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC). Shortly after the acute display of aggressive behaviour (as a state-like phenomenon), decreased 5-HT levels and an increase in 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio and NE concentrations were found. Surprisingly, pharmacological challenges known to influence 5-HT transmission and aggressive behaviour did not affect CSF 5-HT and 5-HIAA concentrations, only the NE level was increased. Lesioning 5-HT terminals by 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT) administration caused a decrease in CSF 5-HT and 5-HIAA, but without affecting aggressive behaviour. The observed positive correlation between CSF 5-HIAA and trait aggressiveness makes it questionable whether a direct extrapolation of neurobiological mechanisms of aggression between species is justified. Interpretation of CSF metabolite levels in terms of activity of neural substrates requires a far more detailed knowledge of the dynamics and kinetics of a neurotransmitter after its release.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-208
Number of pages10
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003
EventWorkshop on Comtemporary Issues in Aggressive Behavior -
Duration: 1-Jan-2002 → …


  • 5-HIAA
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Serotonin
  • CSF
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Male Wildtype Groningen rats


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