1. Acute administration of ethanol exerts a biphasic effect on the concentrations of rat brain tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptamine and 5-hydroxyindol-3-ylacetic acid. Both effects are associated with corresponding changes in the availability of circulating free tryptophan. 2. The initial increases in the above concentrations are prevented by ergotamine, are unaltered by allopurinol and are potentiated by theophylline, whereas the later decreases are prevented by both ergotamine and allopurinol. 3. It is suggested that the initial enhancement by ethanol of brain tryptophan metabolism is caused by catecholamine-mediated lipolysis followed by displacement of protein-bound serum tryptophan, whereas the activation of liver tryptophaan pyrrolase, which is produced by the same mechanism, leads to the later decreases in the brain concentrations of tryptophan and its metabolites. 4. The initial effects of ethanol can be reproduced by an equicaloric dose of sucrose, and a comparison of the two treatments alone could therefore be misleading. 5. The effects of ethanol on liver and brain tryptophan metabolism have also been examined in mice, and a comparison of the results with those previously reported suggests that the ethanol effects are strain-dependent.

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