Serotonin and the neuroendocrine regulation of the hypothalamic--pituitary-adrenal axis in health and disease

Vitam Horm. 2003;66:189-255. doi: 10.1016/s0083-6729(03)01006-9.


Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT)-containing neurons in the midbrain directly innervate corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)-containing cells located in paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. Serotonergic inputs into the paraventricular nucleus mediate the release of CRH, leading to the release of adrenocorticotropin, which triggers glucocorticoid secretion from the adrenal cortex. 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors are the main receptors mediating the serotonergic stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. In turn, both CRH and glucocorticoids have multiple and complex effects on the serotonergic neurons. Therefore, these two systems are interwoven and communicate closely. The intimate relationship between serotonin and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is of great importance in normal physiology such as circadian rhythm and stress, as well as pathophysiological disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and chronic fatigue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Depression
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiology*
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology*
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Serotonin