Hot Topics: SIDS Infants Show High Levels of Serotonin in Blood

Jackie Werner Hot Topics in Research, Pediatrics

High serum serotonin in sudden infant death syndrome

Haynes RL, Frelinger AL, Giles EK, et al. High serum serotonin in sudden infant death syndrome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2017. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617374114.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of postneonatal infant mortality, likely comprises heterogeneous disorders with the common phenotype of sudden death without explanation upon postmortem investigation. Previously, we reported that ∼40% of SIDS deaths are associated with abnormalities in serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) in regions of the brainstem critical in homeostatic regulation. Here we tested the hypothesis that SIDS is associated with an alteration in serum 5-HT levels. Serum 5-HT, adjusted for postconceptional age, was significantly elevated (95%) in SIDS infants (n = 61) compared with autopsied controls (n = 15) [SIDS, 177.2 ± 15.1 (mean ± SE) ng/mL versus controls, 91.1 ± 30.6 ng/mL] (P = 0.014), as determined by ELISA. This increase was validated using high-performance liquid chromatography. Thirty-one percent (19/61) of SIDS cases had 5-HT levels greater than 2 SDs above the mean of the controls, thus defining a subset of SIDS cases with elevated 5-HT. There was no association between genotypes of the serotonin transporter promoter region polymorphism and serum 5-HT level. This study demonstrates that SIDS is associated with peripheral abnormalities in the 5-HT pathway. High serum 5-HT may serve as a potential forensic biomarker in autopsied infants with SIDS with serotonergic defects.