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. 2007 Nov;54(4):266-88.

Studies on the Neuroendocrine Role of Serotonin

  • PMID: 18208678

Studies on the Neuroendocrine Role of Serotonin

Henrik Stig Jørgensen. Dan Med Bull. .


The aim of the thesis was to investigate in male Wistar rats, the involvement of serotonin (5-HT) and 5-HT receptors in the regulation of the gene expression of hypothalamic hormones and in the secretion of the pituitary gland hormones prolactin (PRL), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin in basal and stress conditions. Furthermore, to study the significance of some distinctive central nuclei in these processes, and the metabolism of 5-HT in the hypothalamus and the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN). The experiments were focused on (1) determination of involved neurons and nuclei (2) the hypothalamic level and (3) the pituitary gland level of regulation. The studies were typically performed in vivo but some studies were performed in vitro. Stereotactically neurotoxic lesion with 5,7-dihydroxy-5-HT in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) or the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) reduced the ACTH and AVP response to stress, indicating an importance of these structures for this response. In situ hybridization on rat brain slices with oligopeptides showed an increase of corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) mRNA in the PVN and proopiomelanocortin in the anterior pituitary lobe upon stimulation of the 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors. Stimulation of 5-HT2A+2C receptors increased AVP mRNA in the PVN but not in the supraoptic nucleus (SON), whereas the level of oxytocin (OT) mRNA was increased both in the SON and the PVN and this effect was in addition mediated via 5-HT1A+1B receptors. Serotonin infused directly into the PVN by microdialysis stimulated local release of AVP. CRH was found to have a major role but not a complete responsibility in the 5-HT-induced release of ACTH, since immunoneutralisation of CRH inhibited the POMC gene expression and the ACTH response and since 5-HT and 5-HT antagonists were able to modulate the ACTH release from anterior pituitary gland cells in vitro. Through the years of investigation, the classification of the 7 main groups of 5-HT receptors (5-HT1 - 5-HT7) has changed due to molecular biological characterisation of the receptors and new receptors have been identified. With a battery of 5-HT agonists and antagonists several pharmacological experiments were performed with systemically or central administration of compounds and radioimmuno assay of plasma for pituitary gland hormone levels. Specific substances were not available for all 5-HT receptors and subreceptors thus some conclusions are a based on combination of experiments. The 5-HT induced PRL response is mediated via 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C and 5-HT3 receptors. In addition an involvement of 5-HT1B, 5-HT5 or 5-HT7 receptors seem possible. The ACTH response to 5-HT is mediated via 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors and an involvement of the 5-HT4, 5-HT5 and 5-HT7 receptors is proposed. Peripheral secretion of AVP upon stimulation with 5-HT is mediated via 5-HT2C, 5-HT4 and 5-HT7 receptors but not 5-HT1A receptors. The secretion of OT is primarily mediated via 5-HT1A, 5-HT2C and 5-HT4 receptors and probably also 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A, 5-HT5A and 5-HT7 receptors. Physical and psychological stress activates hippocampal and hypothalamic 5-HT neurons. In contrast to other stress factors, restraint stress increases the content of 5-HT in the DRN but do not increase the metabolism of 5-HT and does not induce changes in hypothalamic levels of 5-HT. Large variations are found in the literature with different kinds of stress, different measurements and different time schedules. Restraint or ether stress induced secretion of PRL involves 5-HT2 and 5-HT3 receptors, whereas the ACTH secretion is mediated via 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors. In the present study restraint stress increased AVP secretion, but opposite findings has reported possibly due to differences in the stress procedure. The 5-HT2, 5-HT3 and 5-HT4 receptor is involved in the AVP response to restraint whereas the OT response involves the 5-HT1A and the 5-HT2 receptor. The 5-HT2 receptor is involved in the OT response to dehydration or haemorrhage, whereas the AVP responses to these stressors probably do not involve 5-HT. It can be concluded that 5-HT is involved in basal and stress-induced regulation of PRL, ACTH, AVP and oxytocin mainly via the 5-HT2A+2C receptors but other receptors are also important but differs from hormone to hormone. Serotonin affect the secretion of CRH and ACTH both at the hypothalamic, pituitary portal and pituitary gland level, and possibly also at the adrenal level.

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