1. Folate deficiency, or inborn errors of folate metabolism, cause reduced turnover of 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), and perhaps dopamine, in the central nervous system. The mechanism by which this occurs are not known. One possibility is that this is mediated by deficiency of the methyl-donor S-adenosylmethionine.
2. To test this in humans, we have measured cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid and homovanillic acid, metabolites of 5-hydroxytryptamine and dopamine, respectively, in children with inborn errors of the methyl-transfer pathway. These children are naturally deficient in 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, S-adenosylmethionine or both before treatment, and replete with S-adenosylmethionine, but not necessarily with 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, during treatment.
3. Children with subnormal cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate had significantly reduced concentrations of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid and homovanillic acid. Children with subnormal cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of S-adenosylmethionine did not have significantly reduced concentrations of these metabolites.
4. We conclude that the mechanism by which deficiency of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate causes reduced 5-hydroxytryptamine and dopamine turnover is unlikely to be mediated by S-adenosylmethionine.