Lasmiditan mechanism of action - review of a selective 5-HT1F agonist

J Headache Pain. 2020 Jun 10;21(1):71. doi: 10.1186/s10194-020-01132-3.


Migraine is a leading cause of disability worldwide, but it is still underdiagnosed and undertreated. Research on the pathophysiology of this neurological disease led to the discovery that calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a key neuropeptide involved in pain signaling during a migraine attack. CGRP-mediated neuronal sensitization and glutamate-based second- and third-order neuronal signaling may be an important component involved in migraine pain. The activation of several serotonergic receptor subtypes can block the release of CGRP, other neuropeptides, and neurotransmitters, and can relieve the symptoms of migraine. Triptans were the first therapeutics developed for the treatment of migraine, working through serotonin 5-HT1B/1D receptors. The discovery that the serotonin 1F (5-HT1F) receptor was expressed in the human trigeminal ganglion suggested that this receptor subtype may have a role in the treatment of migraine. The 5-HT1F receptor is found on terminals and cell bodies of trigeminal ganglion neurons and can modulate the release of CGRP from these nerves. Unlike 5-HT1B receptors, the activation of 5-HT1F receptors does not cause vasoconstriction.The potency of different serotonergic agonists towards 5-HT1F was correlated in an animal model of migraine (dural plasma protein extravasation model) leading to the development of lasmiditan. Lasmiditan is a newly approved acute treatment for migraine in the United States and is a lipophilic, highly selective 5-HT1F agonist that can cross the blood-brain barrier and act at peripheral nervous system (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS) sites.Lasmiditan activation of CNS-located 5-HT1F receptors (e.g., in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis) could potentially block the release of CGRP and the neurotransmitter glutamate, thus preventing and possibly reversing the development of central sensitization. Activation of 5-HT1F receptors in the thalamus can block secondary central sensitization of this region, which is associated with progression of migraine and extracephalic cutaneous allodynia. The 5-HT1F receptors are also elements of descending pain modulation, presenting another site where lasmiditan may alleviate migraine. There is emerging evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction might be implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine, and that 5-HT1F receptors can promote mitochondrial biogenesis. While the exact mechanism is unknown, evidence suggests that lasmiditan can alleviate migraine through 5-HT1F agonist activity that leads to inhibition of neuropeptide and neurotransmitter release and inhibition of PNS trigeminovascular and CNS pain signaling pathways.

Keywords: 5-HT1F; Brain penetration; CGRP; Glutamate; Lasmiditan; Lipophilicity; Migraine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzamides / pharmacology*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Piperidines / pharmacology*
  • Pyridines / pharmacology*
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1F
  • Receptors, Serotonin*
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Trigeminal Ganglion / metabolism
  • Trigeminal Ganglion / physiopathology
  • Tryptamines
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects


  • Benzamides
  • Piperidines
  • Pyridines
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Tryptamines
  • lasmiditan
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide