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Open Access Open Badges Research

Origin of the blood hyperserotonemia of autism

Skirmantas Janušonis

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660, USA

Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2008, 5:10  doi:10.1186/1742-4682-5-10

Published: 22 May 2008



Research in the last fifty years has shown that many autistic individuals have elevated serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) levels in blood platelets. This phenomenon, known as the platelet hyperserotonemia of autism, is considered to be one of the most well-replicated findings in biological psychiatry. Its replicability suggests that many of the genes involved in autism affect a small number of biological networks. These networks may also play a role in the early development of the autistic brain.


We developed an equation that allows calculation of platelet 5-HT concentration as a function of measurable biological parameters. It also provides information about the sensitivity of platelet 5-HT levels to each of the parameters and their interactions.


The model yields platelet 5-HT concentrations that are consistent with values reported in experimental studies. If the parameters are considered independent, the model predicts that platelet 5-HT levels should be sensitive to changes in the platelet 5-HT uptake rate constant, the proportion of free 5-HT cleared in the liver and lungs, the gut 5-HT production rate and its regulation, and the volume of the gut wall. Linear and non-linear interactions among these and other parameters are specified in the equation, which may facilitate the design and interpretation of experimental studies.