We have recently uncovered the full expression of novel cutaneous serotoninergic and melatoninergic systems in the human and hamster skin. In this work, we have characterized serotonin metabolism in the rat skin using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and found that serotonin undergoes acetylation in the presence of acetyl coenzyme A. Inhibition of serotonin acetylation with Cole bisubstrate inhibitor shows that rat skin expresses both arylalkylamine and arylamine N-acetyltransferase activities. The serotonin degradation product - 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid is also detected and pargyline (monoaminooxidase inhibitor) suppresses almost completely 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid accumulation. Together with previous data, the present study clearly demonstrates that biotransformation of serotonin in mammalian skin follows two alternate pathways. In the first pathway, serotonin is acetylated by arylalkylamine and arylamine N-acetyltransferases to generate the precursor of melatonin. Alternately, serotonin may undergo oxidative deamination by monoaminooxidase followed by enzymatic degradation by aldehyde dehydrogenase into 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid, which is presumably devoid of biological activity. Thus, the current methodological development of a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-based assay allows rapid resolution of the cutaneous metabolism of serotonin. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.