Serotonergic mechanisms as targets for existing and novel antipsychotics

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2012;(212):87-124. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-25761-2_4.


A variety of serotonin (5-HT) receptors, especially 5-HT(2A), 5-HT(1A), 5-HT(6), 5-HT(7), and 5-HT(2C), have been postulated to contribute to the mechanism of action of atypical antipsychotic drugs (APDs), i.e., APDs which cause fewer extrapyramidal side effects (EPS) at clinically optimal doses, in contrast with typical APDs, which are more likely to cause EPS. This advantage, rarely disputed, has made such drugs the preferred treatment for schizophrenia and other indications for APDs. These 5-HT receptors are still of interest as components of novel multireceptor or stand-alone APDs, and potentially to remediate cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Almost all currently available atypical APDs are 5-HT(2A) receptor inverse agonists, as well as dopamine (DA) D(2) receptor antagonists or partial agonists. Amisulpride, an exceptional atypical APD, has 5-HT(7) antagonism to complement its DA D(2/3) antagonism. Some atypical APDs are also 5-HT(1A) partial agonists, 5-HT(6), or 5-HT(7) antagonists, or some combination of the above. 5-HT(2C) antagonism has been found to contribute to the metabolic side effects of some atypical APDs, whereas 5-HT(2C) agonists have potential as stand-alone APDs and/or cognitive enhancers. This review will provide an update of current preclinical and clinical evidence for the role of these five 5-HT receptors in the actions of current APDs and for the development of novel psychotropic drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / physiology
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / physiology
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2C / physiology
  • Receptors, Serotonin / drug effects
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology*
  • Serotonin Antagonists / therapeutic use


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2C
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • serotonin 6 receptor
  • serotonin 7 receptor
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A