Embracing diversity in the 5-HT neuronal system

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2019 Jul;20(7):397-424. doi: 10.1038/s41583-019-0151-3.


Neurons that synthesize and release 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT; serotonin) express a core set of genes that establish and maintain this neurotransmitter phenotype and distinguish these neurons from other brain cells. Beyond a shared 5-HTergic phenotype, these neurons display divergent cellular properties in relation to anatomy, morphology, hodology, electrophysiology and gene expression, including differential expression of molecules supporting co-transmission of additional neurotransmitters. This diversity suggests that functionally heterogeneous subtypes of 5-HT neurons exist, but linking subsets of these neurons to particular functions has been technically challenging. We discuss recent data from molecular genetic, genomic and functional methods that, when coupled with classical findings, yield a reframing of the 5-HT neuronal system as a conglomeration of diverse subsystems with potential to inspire novel, more targeted therapies for clinically distinct 5-HT-related disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Serotonergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Serotonin / genetics*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome / physiology*


  • Serotonin