Animal models of the serotonin syndrome: a systematic review

Behav Brain Res. 2013 Nov 1;256:328-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.08.045. Epub 2013 Sep 1.


The serotonin syndrome (SS) is a potentially life-threatening disorder in humans which is induced by ingestion of an overdose or by combination of two or more serotonin (5-HT)-enhancing drugs. In animals, acute administration of direct and indirect 5-HT agonists also leads to a set of behavioral and autonomic responses. In the current review, we provide an overview of the existing versions of the animal model of the SS. With a focus on studies in rats and mice, we analyze the frequency of behavioral and autonomic responses following administration of 5-HT-enhancing drugs and direct 5-HT agonists administered alone or in combination, and we briefly discuss the receptor mediation of these responses. Considering species differences, we identify a distinct set of behavioral and autonomic responses that are consistently observed following administration of direct and indirect 5-HT agonists. Finally, we discuss the importance of a standardized assessment of SS responses in rodents and the utility of animal models of the SS in translational studies, and provide suggestions for future research.

Keywords: 5-HT; 5-HT agonist; 5-HT transporter; 5-HT-enhancing drug; 5-HTP; 5-HTT; 5-hydroxy-l-tryptophan; Animal model; Core response; MAO; MAOA-I; MAOA/B-I; MAOB-I; Mouse; Rat; SNRI; SRI; SS; SSRI; Serotonin; Serotonin syndrome; TCA; Validity; monoamine oxidase; monoamine oxidase type A inhibitor; monoamine oxidase type A/B inhibitor; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor; serotonin; serotonin reuptake inhibitor; serotonin syndrome; serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor; tricyclic antidepressant.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Serotonin Agents / adverse effects
  • Serotonin Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Serotonin Syndrome / physiopathology*


  • Serotonin Agents