Is the serotonin transporter involved in the pathogenesis of pulmonary hypertension?

J Lab Clin Med. 2002 Apr;139(4):194-201. doi: 10.1067/mlc.2002.122181.


Investigations on the effects of serotonin (5-HT) and the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) on the pulmonary circulation are of special interest because of the reported increased risk of primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) in patients who used some appetite suppressants that interfere with 5-HT. In addition to its vasoactive effects, 5-HT exerts mitogenic and comitogenic effects on pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs). These mitogenic and comitogenic effects require 5-HT internalization by the high-affinity 5-HTT, which can be competitively inhibited by specific drugs such as fluoxetine and paroxetine. In a recent study, we showed that hypoxia increases the rate of 5-HTT gene transcription in PASMCs and potentiates the growth-promoting effect of 5-HT on these cells. An increase in the levels of 5-HTT messenger ribonucleic acid was observed in smooth-muscle cells from remodeled pulmonary arteries in rats subjected to long-term hypoxia. Two series of especially relevant data further support the idea that 5-HT plays a key role in PASMC proliferation in vivo: (1) treatments that increase plasma 5-HT levels aggravate pulmonary hypertension in rats subjected to long-term hypoxia, and this effect can be prevented by combined simultaneous treatment with 5-HTT inhibitors; and (2) knockout mice with disruption of the 5-HTT gene exhibit lesser degree of hypoxic pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary vascular remodeling than control mice despite increased hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. These observations indicate that 5-HTT expression, activity, or both in PASMCs contribute to pulmonary vascular remodeling and that the inducing effects of some appetite suppressants on pulmonary hypertension may be related to possible effects of these drugs on 5-HTT expression, activity, or both.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / physiopathology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins