Ovarian steroids and serotonin neural function

Mol Neurobiol. 1998 Oct;18(2):87-123. doi: 10.1007/BF02914268.


The serotonin neural system originates from ten nuclei in the mid- and hindbrain regions. The cells of the rostral nuclei project to almost every area of the forebrain, including the hypothalamus, limbic regions, basal ganglia, thalamic nuclei, and cortex. The caudal nuclei project to the spinal cord and interact with numerous autonomic and sensory systems. This article reviews much of the available literature from basic research and relevant clinical research that indicates that ovarian steroid hormones, estrogens and progestins, affect the function of the serotonin neural system. Experimental results in nonhuman primates from this laboratory are contrasted with studies in rodents and humans. The sites of action of ovarian hormones on the serotonin neural system include effects within serotonin neurons as well as effects on serotonin afferent neurons and serotonin target neurons. Therefore, information on estrogen and progestin receptor-containing neurons was synthesized with information on serotonin afferent and efferent circuits. The ability of estrogens and progestins to alter the function of the serotonin neural system at various levels provides a cellular mechanism whereby ovarian hormones can impact mood, cognition, pain, and numerous other autonomic functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Ovary / physiology*
  • Progesterone / physiology*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology
  • Receptors, Progesterone / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology*


  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Serotonin
  • Progesterone