Normal brain aging is associated with depression and cognitive decline. One of the mechanisms of aging-associated emotional and cognitive impairment might be the down-regulation of biosynthesis of N-acetylserotonin (NAS), one of the methoxyindole derivatives of tryptophan (TRP). Aging is associated with decreased NAS production, largely resulting from the down-regulation of beta 1 adrenoreceptors that activate serotonin N-acetyltransferase, the enzyme catalyzing formation of NAS from serotonin. NAS exerts antidepressant-like and cognition-enhancing effects. The NAS role in cognition supported by the discovery that scotophobin, decapeptide extracted from brain and associated with cognition improvement, inhibits NAS conversion into melatonin. Furthermore, NAS (and its derivatives) attenuated cognitive impairment induced by cholinergic neurotoxin and protected against beta-amyloid neurotoxicity. Considering that NAS (but not serotonin or melatonin) is a potent agonist to high-affinity BDNF tyrosine kinase (TrkB) receptors, antidepressant and cognition-enhancing effect of NAS might be mediated by activation of TrkB receptors. NAS and TRkB gradually decreased from 1 postnatal week becoming undetectable in the brains of old rats. Additional mechanisms might include non-receptor mediated anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of NAS. Therapeutic antidepressant and cognition-improving interventions might include administration of NAS and its analogs; inhibition of tryptophan - kynurenine metabolism to increase serotonin availability as a substrate for NAS biosynthesis; up-regulation of NAS formation from serotonin and down-regulation of NAS conversion into melatonin.
Keywords: N-acetylserotonin, aging, memory, scotophobin, BDNF, TrkB