Cardiovascular responses produced by 5-hydroxytriptamine:a pharmacological update on the receptors/mechanisms involved and therapeutic implications

Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2007 Oct;376(1-2):45-63. doi: 10.1007/s00210-007-0179-1. Epub 2007 Aug 17.


The complexity of cardiovascular responses produced by 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin), including bradycardia or tachycardia, hypotension or hypertension, and vasodilatation or vasoconstriction, has been explained by the capability of this monoamine to interact with different receptors in the central nervous system (CNS), on the autonomic ganglia and postganglionic nerve endings, on vascular smooth muscle and endothelium, and on the cardiac tissue. Depending, among other factors, on the species, the vascular bed under study, and the experimental conditions, these responses are mainly mediated by 5-HT(1), 5-HT(2), 5-HT(3), 5-HT(4), 5-ht(5A/5B), and 5-HT(7) receptors as well as by a tyramine-like action or unidentified mechanisms. It is noteworthy that 5-HT(6) receptors do not seem to be involved in the cardiovascular responses to 5-HT. Regarding heart rate, intravenous (i.v.) administration of 5-HT usually lowers this variable by eliciting a von Bezold-Jarisch-like reflex via 5-HT(3) receptors located on sensory vagal nerve endings in the heart. Other bradycardic mechanisms include cardiac sympatho-inhibition by prejunctional 5-HT(1B/1D) receptors and, in the case of the rat, an additional 5-ht(5A/5B) receptor component. Moreover, i.v. 5-HT can increase heart rate in different species (after vagotomy) by a variety of mechanisms/receptors including activation of: (1) myocardial 5-HT(2A) (rat), 5-HT(3) (dog), 5-HT(4) (pig, human), and 5-HT(7) (cat) receptors; (2) adrenomedullary 5-HT(2) (dog) and prejunctional sympatho-excitatory 5-HT(3) (rabbit) receptors associated with a release of catecholamines; (3) a tyramine-like action mechanism (guinea pig); and (4) unidentified mechanisms (certain lamellibranch and gastropod species). Furthermore, central administration of 5-HT can cause, in general, bradycardia and/or tachycardia mediated by activation of, respectively, 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(2) receptors. On the other hand, the blood pressure response to i.v. administration of 5-HT is usually triphasic and consists of an initial short-lasting vasodepressor response due to a reflex bradycardia (mediated by 5-HT(3) receptors located on vagal afferents, via the von Bezold-Jarisch-like reflex), a middle vasopressor phase, and a late, longer-lasting, vasodepressor response. The vasopressor response is a consequence of vasoconstriction mainly mediated by 5-HT(2A) receptors; however, vasoconstriction in the canine saphenous vein and external carotid bed as well as in the porcine cephalic arteries and arteriovenous anastomoses is due to activation of 5-HT(1B) receptors. The late vasodepressor response may involve three different mechanisms: (1) direct vasorelaxation by activation of 5-HT(7) receptors located on vascular smooth muscle; (2) inhibition of the vasopressor sympathetic outflow by sympatho-inhibitory 5-HT(1A/1B/1D) receptors; and (3) release of endothelium-derived relaxing factor (nitric oxide) by 5-HT(2B) and/or 5-HT(1B/1D) receptors. Furthermore, central administration of 5-HT can cause both hypotension (mainly mediated by 5-HT(1A) receptors) and hypertension (mainly mediated by 5-HT(2) receptors). The increasing availability of new compounds with high affinity and selectivity for the different 5-HT receptor subtypes makes it possible to develop drugs with potential therapeutic usefulness in the treatment of some cardiovascular illnesses including hypertension, migraine, some peripheral vascular diseases, and heart failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / drug therapy
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular System / innervation
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / drug effects
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Ligands
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Serotonin / classification
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology*
  • Serotonin / pharmacology*
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Serotonin Agents / pharmacology


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Serotonin