Neurochemical mechanism of action of drugs which modify feeding via the serotoninergic system

Appetite. 1986;7 Suppl:15-38. doi: 10.1016/s0195-6663(86)80050-2.


The neurochemical mechanisms by which drugs acting on central serotoninergic system modify feeding were reviewed. Fenfluramine, a clinically effective appetite suppressant, releases serotonin from nerve terminals and inhibits its reuptake, and considerable evidence suggests that these effects mediate its anorectic activity. The D isomer of fenfluramine is particularly specific in affecting serotonin mechanisms and causing anorexia. Transmitters other than serotonin such as acetylcholine, catecholamines and GABA are also affected by systemic administration of fenfluramine, but some of these effects are secondary to fenfluramine's action on serotoninergic mechanisms. Moreover, there is no evidence that these brain substances are involved in fenfluramine's ability to cause anorexia. Several studies with drugs affecting different serotonin mechanisms such as release and uptake or mimicking the action of serotonin at post-synaptic receptors suggest that increase serotonin release and direct stimulation of postsynaptic receptors are the most effective mechanisms for causing depression of food intake, although inhibition of serotonin uptake may also contribute in appropriate conditions. Development of serotonin receptor hyposensitivity and, in some instances, decreased serotonin levels may lead to tolerance to the anorectic activity of drugs enhancing serotonin transmission, the degree of this depending critically on the type of effect on serotonin mechanisms and intensity and duration of serotonin receptor activation. Recent evidence suggests that a decrease in serotonin function causes stimulation of feeding. This may lead to development of new strategies for the treatment of clinical anorexias.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 8-Hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin
  • Acetylcholine / analysis
  • Animals
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Appetite Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Endorphins / analysis
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Fenfluramine / pharmacology
  • Fenfluramine / toxicity
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / analysis
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Quipazine / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Tetrahydronaphthalenes / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analysis


  • Appetite Depressants
  • Endorphins
  • Piperazines
  • Pyridines
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Tetrahydronaphthalenes
  • Fenfluramine
  • Serotonin
  • Quipazine
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • 8-Hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin
  • CM 57493
  • Acetylcholine
  • 1-(3-chlorophenyl)piperazine
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine