4
$\begingroup$

Edit: If somebody (anybody) wants to add an answer so the bounty won't go to waste, please do so! The comments have already introduced me to the Kegg metabolism database, some interesting papers, and an amazing chapter on the biochemistry of cats. Thus, this question has been useful to me (and hopefully, to the community as well).

There is a question on Skeptics.SE that asks if "cats have a chemical in their brains that resembles LSD." I haven't found any similar claim online, but started wondering: 1. Do cats produce (natural) compounds that structurally resemble LSD? 2. Do cats produce (natural) compounds that functionally resemble LSD? Quickly glancing at the structure of LSD, it contains an indole ring. Hovering over the various indoles here found one substance that occurred in animals and was consumed as a psychedelic drug.

There is a paper that writes:

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is an indole alkaloid widely found in plants and animals. It is best known for producing brief and intense psychedelic effects when ingested. Increasing evidence suggests that endogenous DMT plays important roles for a number of processes in the periphery and central nervous system, and may act as a neurotransmitter.

The paper also proposed the role of DMT as a neurotransmitter. However, I haven't been able to confirm DMT is naturally produced by cats.

Do cats produce DMT? If so, what is the purpose of DMT in the cat?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I suggest you try to answer this yourself using the Kegg metabolism datatbase. I couldn't find anything for Dimethyltryptamine, but searching for tryptamine gave eight pathways. I suggest you inspect each to see if there are any related compounds. If you find them, then check which organism the pathway is present in. Even if your search is negative, you'll benefit from the experience. Good luck! $\endgroup$ – David Apr 13 '19 at 20:09
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why are relevant parts of the question hidden as "spoiler"? $\endgroup$ – Arsak Apr 27 '19 at 12:22
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why are cats so important here? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Apr 27 '19 at 22:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AliceD I guess I can only say, "I'm curious about cats." And that's the truth, and a bad explanation. $\endgroup$ – user51103 Apr 28 '19 at 10:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For anyone interested in the peculiar biochemistry of cats see "Carnivores, Herbivores and Omnivores" in "Blondes in Venetian Paintings, the Nine-Banded Armadillo, and Other Essays in Biochemistry : Konrad Bloch", a great, great reference by a Nobel prize winner and available through the internet archive here $\endgroup$ – user1136 Apr 28 '19 at 12:23
1
$\begingroup$

Yes! Many mammals, including cats and humans, produce DMT in small amounts.

DMT has been detected in blood and urine and is produced by the enzyme indolethylamine N‐methyltransferase (INMT). These do bind to serotonin receptors. Serotonin receptors are actually expressed in multiple tissues outside of the brain. However, DMT does cross the blood-brain barrier (ref), so it's possible that endogenous DMT has some neuroactive effect (I really don't know). Good question.

This 2016 paper states (referring to a 2012 review) that it was identified in urine, blood, and CSF:

A review by Barker in 2012 assessed 69 studies that reported endogenous DMT detection and quantities reported in urine (29 studies), blood (11 studies), and cerebrospinal fluid (4 studies) from 1955 – 2010 primarily comparing detection levels within healthy controls and schizophrenic patients. DMT in urine was examined in 861 individuals (635 patients), 276 patients and 145 controls were positive for DMT.

I think that's the most direct answer to you question I could find. I didn't find anything on cats specifically, but that's likely to be similar.

This earlier 2004 paper states that it was only found in urine, but the previous study refers to studies before 2004, so I don't know why these two seem to contradict:

In mammals, endogenous bufotenine and DMT have been identified only in human urine. The DMIAs bind effectively to 5HT receptors and their administration causes a variety of autonomic effects, which may reflect their actual physiological function. Endogenous levels of bufotenine and DMT in blood and a number of animal and human tissues were determined using highly sensitive and specific quantitative mass spectrometric techniques.

Here's the entry for INMT on Kegg, and the Human Protein Atlas lists where INMT is expressed. Weirdly, that enzyme is highly expressed in the human lung.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ As a neuropharmacologist who's specifically studied DMT (doi:10.1021/acs.jmedchem.9b01404), I consider it somewhat unlikely that it's a neurotransmitter, or at least one of any significance. $\endgroup$ – Douglas Myers-Turnbull Jul 22 at 19:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy