Serotonin in the gut: Blessing or a curse

Biochimie. 2019 Jun:161:56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2018.06.008. Epub 2018 Jun 14.


Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) once most extensively studied as a neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, is seen to be predominantly secreted in the gut. About 95% of 5-HT is estimated to be found in gut mainly within the enterochromaffin cells whereas about 5% is found in the brain. 5-HT is an important enteric signaling molecule and is well known for playing a key role in sensory-motor and secretory functions in the gut. In recent times, studies uncovering various new functions of gut-derived 5-HT indicate that many more are yet to be discovered in coming days. Recent studies revealed that 5-HT plays a pivotal role in immune cell activation and generation/perpetuation of inflammation in the gut. In addition to its various roles in the gut, there are now emerging evidences that suggest an important role of gut-derived 5-HT in other biological processes beyond the gut, such as bone remodeling and metabolic homeostasis. This review focuses to briefly summarize the accumulated and newly updated role of 5-HT in the maintenance of normal gut physiology and in the pathogenesis of inflammation in the gut. The collected information about this multifaceted signaling molecule may aid in distinguishing its good and bad effects which may lead to the development of novel strategies to overcome the unwanted effect, such as in inflammatory bowel disease.

Keywords: 5-HT; Gut; Immune response; Inflammation; Serotonin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin