The different 5-HT (serotonin) receptors including the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) are candidate genes for affective disorders such as major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD). They have been investigated in a number of allelic association studies where the individual results have been inconsistent, and therefore, definite conclusions are difficult to make. Systematic reviews using meta-analytical techniques are a reliable method for objectively and reproducibly assessing individual studies and generating combined result. This study aimed at reviewing published studies investigating the association between affective disorders (MDD and BD) and variation at genes coding for serotonin receptors and the serotonin transporter. We performed National Library of Medicine database searches to identify potential studies. More than 430 articles were reviewed and 86 studies met the inclusion criteria for participation in our review. Of these, 41 studies investigated 45 different 5-HT receptor variants and 45 studies investigated at least one of two commonly studied 5-HTT polymorphisms in MDD. Many studies investigated the association between MDD and BD with the 5-HT2A 102 T/C, the 5-HTT promoter 44 bp insertion/deletion and the intron 2 VNTR polymorphisms, and thus, these could be pooled using meta-analytic techniques. The overall odds ratio (OR) for the combined individual results was significant for BD and the two 5-HTT polymorphisms: Mantel-Haenszel weighted OR=1.14, CI: 1.03-1.26, P=0.015 for the promoter locus (N=3467) and Mantel-Haenszel Weighted odds ratio OR=1.18, CI: 1.05-1.32, P=0.004 for the VNTR locus (N=3620). However, sensitivity analysis indicated that, in each case, the overall positive association could be mostly attributed to the large effect of one individual study. Therefore, these results suggest that, although promising, further studies are required to assess appropriately the evidence suggesting an association between BD and 5-HTT.