Autoradiographic demonstration of increased serotonin 5-HT2 and beta-adrenergic receptor binding sites in the brain of suicide victims

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1990 Nov;47(11):1038-47. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1990.01810230054009.


Suicidal behavior has been linked to a deficiency in serotonin neurotransmission, but it is not known which brain regions are involved. We determined the pattern of alteration in serotonin 5-HT2 (5-HT2) receptor binding sites in suicide victims in prefrontal cortex compared with temporal cortex using a matched-pairs design to study 11 suicide victims and 11 matched controls, by both membrane binding and quantitative receptor autoradiography. Since a relationship between the serotonergic and noradrenergic systems has been proposed, we also examined beta-adrenergic receptor binding sites. Binding to 5-HT2 and beta-adrenergic sites in slide-mounted sections correlated strongly with binding site number in membrane preparations. A specific laminar distribution of 5-HT2 binding sites was found in both the control and suicide groups, whereas beta-adrenergic binding sites did not differ across cortical layers. A significant increase was found in suicide victims across all cortical layers in both receptor subpopulations in the prefrontal cortex, but only beta-adrenergic sites were increased in the temporal cortex. We conclude that suicide is associated with a localized increase in 5-HT2 binding sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Autoradiography
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Suicide*
  • Temporal Lobe / metabolism
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed
  • Up-Regulation


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Receptors, Serotonin