Ontogeny of platelet serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) during the first year of life was examined in newborns and infants. The effects of in utero exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI, including fluoxetine, sertraline, and citalopram) were examined by comparing cord blood 5-HT levels in exposed and unexposed newborns. Heritability was assessed by correlation of the platelet 5-HT values observed for mother-infant pairs. No age effect was observed in 1-49 wk-old infants (r = 0.13, p = 0.49) and mean platelet 5-HT levels in infants (241 +/- 102 ng/mL, n = 33; 615 +/- 320 ng/10(9) platelets, n = 32) were similar to those reported for older children and adults. However, significantly lower blood 5-HT levels were observed in newborns (81.3 +/- 32.5 ng/mL, n = 16, p < 0.0001; 297 +/- 101 ng/10(9) platelets, n = 11, p = 0.0007) compared with the 1-49 wk-old infants. The mean cord blood 5-HT concentrations in newborns exposed in utero to SSRI (n = 8) were substantially lower than that seen in unexposed (n = 16) newborns (20.6 +/- 14.4 versus. 81.3 +/- 32.5 ng/mL, p = 0.0001; 90.7 +/- 55.4 versus. 297 +/- 101 ng/10(9) platelets, p = 0.0005). Platelet serotonin levels (ng/10(9) platelets) in mother-child pairs (n = 32) were significantly correlated (r = 0.415, p = 0.018). The results indicate that, although platelet 5-HT is low at birth, values quickly increase and stabilize at near-adult levels by 1 mo of age. Gestational exposure to SSRI appears to substantially reduce platelet 5-HT uptake in the fetus, strongly suggesting that such exposure has important physiologic effects. The observed mother-infant correlation agrees with a previous report of high heritability in a large adult population.