Towards in vivo imaging of functionally active 5-HT1A receptors in schizophrenia: concepts and challenges

Transl Psychiatry. 2021 Jan 7;11(1):22. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-01119-3.


The serotonin 5-HT1A receptor has attracted wide attention as a target for treatment of psychiatric disorders. Although this receptor is important in the pharmacological mechanisms of action of new-generation antipsychotics, its characterization remains incomplete. Studies based on in vitro molecular imaging on brain tissue by autoradiography, and more recently in vivo PET imaging, have not yielded clear results, in particular due to the limitations of current 5-HT1A radiotracers, which lack specificity and/or bind to all 5-HT1A receptors, regardless of their functional status. The new concept of PET neuroimaging of functionally active G-protein-coupled receptors makes it possible to revisit PET brain exploration by enabling new research paradigms. For the 5-HT1A receptor it is now possible to use [18F]-F13640, a 5-HT1A receptor radioligand with high efficacy agonist properties, to specifically visualize and quantify functionally active receptors, and to relate this information to subjects' pathophysiological or pharmacological state. We therefore propose imaging protocols to follow changes in the pattern of functional 5-HT1A receptors in relation to mood deficits or cognitive processes. This could allow improved discrimination of different schizophrenia phenotypes and greater understanding of the basis of therapeutic responses to antipsychotic drugs. Finally, as well as targeting functionally active receptors to gain insights into the role of 5-HT1A receptors, the concept can also be extended to the study of other receptors involved in the pathophysiology or therapy of psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoradiography
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A
  • Schizophrenia* / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia* / drug therapy
  • Serotonin
  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists*


  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A
  • Serotonin