Inflammation-Induced Histamine Impairs the Capacity of Escitalopram to Increase Hippocampal Extracellular Serotonin

J Neurosci. 2021 Jul 28;41(30):6564-6577. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2618-20.2021. Epub 2021 Jun 3.


Commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) inhibit the serotonin transporter to correct a presumed deficit in extracellular serotonin signaling during depression. These agents bring clinical relief to many who take them; however, a significant and growing number of individuals are resistant to SSRIs. There is emerging evidence that inflammation plays a significant role in the clinical variability of SSRIs, though how SSRIs and inflammation intersect with synaptic serotonin modulation remains unknown. In this work, we use fast in vivo serotonin measurement tools to investigate the nexus between serotonin, inflammation, and SSRIs. Upon acute systemic lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration in male and female mice, we find robust decreases in extracellular serotonin in the mouse hippocampus. We show that these decreased serotonin levels are supported by increased histamine activity (because of inflammation), acting on inhibitory histamine H3 heteroreceptors on serotonin terminals. Importantly, under LPS-induced histamine increase, the ability of escitalopram to augment extracellular serotonin is impaired because of an off-target action of escitalopram to inhibit histamine reuptake. Finally, we show that a functional decrease in histamine synthesis boosts the ability of escitalopram to increase extracellular serotonin levels following LPS. This work reveals a profound effect of inflammation on brain chemistry, specifically the rapidity of inflammation-induced decreased extracellular serotonin, and points the spotlight at a potentially critical player in the pathology of depression, histamine. The serotonin/histamine homeostasis thus, may be a crucial new avenue in improving serotonin-based treatments for depression.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Acute LPS-induced inflammation (1) increases CNS histamine, (2) decreases CNS serotonin (via inhibitory histamine receptors), and (3) prevents a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) from effectively increasing extracellular serotonin. A targeted depletion of histamine recovers SSRI-induced increases in extracellular hippocampal serotonin.

Keywords: FSCV; H3 receptor; SSRI; carbon fiber microelectrodes; depression; neurochemistry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Citalopram / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Histamine / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram
  • Serotonin
  • Histamine