Functional role of serotonin in insulin secretion in a diet-induced insulin-resistant state

Endocrinology. 2015 Feb;156(2):444-52. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-1687. Epub 2014 Nov 26.


The physiological role of serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), in pancreatic β-cell function was previously elucidated using a pregnant mouse model. During pregnancy, 5-HT increases β-cell proliferation and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) through the Gαq-coupled 5-HT2b receptor (Htr2b) and the 5-HT3 receptor (Htr3), a ligand-gated cation channel, respectively. However, the role of 5-HT in β-cell function in an insulin-resistant state has yet to be elucidated. Here, we characterized the metabolic phenotypes of β-cell-specific Htr2b(-/-) (Htr2b βKO), Htr3a(-/-) (Htr3a knock-out [KO]), and β-cell-specific tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (Tph1)(-/-) (Tph1 βKO) mice on a high-fat diet (HFD). Htr2b βKO, Htr3a KO, and Tph1 βKO mice exhibited normal glucose tolerance on a standard chow diet. After 6 weeks on an HFD, beginning at 4 weeks of age, both Htr3a KO and Tph1 βKO mice developed glucose intolerance, but Htr2b βKO mice remained normoglycemic. Pancreas perfusion assays revealed defective first-phase insulin secretion in Htr3a KO mice. GSIS was impaired in islets isolated from HFD-fed Htr3a KO and Tph1 βKO mice, and 5-HT treatment improved insulin secretion from Tph1 βKO islets but not from Htr3a KO islets. Tph1 and Htr3a gene expression in pancreatic islets was not affected by an HFD, and immunostaining could not detect 5-HT in pancreatic islets from mice fed an HFD. Taken together, these results demonstrate that basal 5-HT levels in β-cells play a role in GSIS through Htr3, which becomes more evident in a diet-induced insulin-resistant state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Serotonin / genetics
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / genetics
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin
  • Tph1 protein, mouse
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase