Serotonin model of schizophrenia: emerging role of glutamate mechanisms

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2000 Mar;31(2-3):302-12. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0173(99)00046-6.


The serotonin (5-HT) hypothesis of schizophrenia arose from early studies on interactions between the hallucinogenic drug LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide) and 5-HT in peripheral systems. More recent studies have shown that the two major classes of psychedelic hallucinogens, the indoleamines (e.g., LSD) and phenethylamines (e.g. , mescaline), produce their central effects through a common action upon 5-HT(2) receptors. This review focuses on two brain regions, the locus coeruleus and the cerebral cortex, where the actions of indoleamine and the phenethylamine hallucinogens have been shown to be mediated by 5-HT(2A) receptors; in each case, the hallucinogens (via 5-HT(2A) receptors) have been found to enhance glutamatergic transmission. In the prefrontal cortex, 5-HT(2A)-receptors stimulation increases the release of glutamate, as indicated by a marked increase in the frequency of excitatory postsynaptic potentials/currents (EPSPs/EPSCs) in the apical dendritic region of layer V pyramidal cells; this effect is blocked by inhibitory group II/III metabotropic glutamate agonists acting presynaptically and by an AMPA/kainate glutamate antagonist, acting postsynaptically at non-NMDA glutamate receptors. A major alternative drug model of schizophrenia, previously believed to be entirely distinct from that of the psychedelic hallucinogens, is based on the psychotomimetic properties of antagonists of the NMDA subtype of glutamate receptor (e.g., phencylidine and ketamine). However, recently it has been found that many of the effects of the NMDA antagonists may also (1) involve 5-HT(2A) receptors and (2) be mediated through excess activity at non-NMDA (i.e., AMPA/kainate) glutamate receptors. Moreover, pharmacological manipulations of glutamate transmission (e. g., by inhibitory metabotropic glutamate agonists) provide unexpected parallels between the actions of these two classes of drugs. Given an emerging recognition of the importance of alterations in glutamatergic transmission in the actions of both psychedelic hallucinogens an NMDA antagonists, this review concludes with of implications for the pathophysiology and therapy of schizophrenia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Glutamic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Glutamate / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology
  • Receptors, Serotonin / drug effects
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Serotonin / pharmacology*


  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin
  • Glutamic Acid