Pharmacologic mechanisms of serotonergic regulation of dopamine neurotransmission

Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Feb;113(2):296-320. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2006.08.004. Epub 2006 Oct 17.


The neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) has a long association with normal functions such as motor control, cognition, and reward, as well as a number of syndromes including drug abuse, schizophrenia, and Parkinson's disease. Studies show that serotonin (5-HT) acts through several 5-HT receptors in the brain to modulate DA neurons in all 3 major dopaminergic pathways. There are at least fourteen 5-HT receptor subtypes, many of which have been shown to play some role in mediating 5-HT/DA interactions. Several subtypes, including the 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A, 5-HT3 and 5-HT4 receptors, act to facilitate DA release, while the 5-HT2C receptor mediates an inhibitory effect of 5-HT on DA release. Most 5-HT receptor subtypes only modulate DA release when 5-HT and/or DA neurons are stimulated, but the 5-HT2C receptor, characterized by high levels of constitutive activity, inhibits tonic as well as evoked DA release. This review summarizes the anatomical evidence for the presence of each 5-HT receptor subtype in dopaminergic regions of the brain and the neuropharmacological evidence demonstrating regulation of each DA pathway. The relevance of 5-HT receptor modulation of DA systems to the development of therapeutics used to treat schizophrenia, depression, and drug abuse is discussed. Lastly, areas are highlighted in which future research would be maximally beneficial to the treatment of these disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism


  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine