International Union of Pharmacology classification of receptors for 5-hydroxytryptamine (Serotonin)

Pharmacol Rev. 1994 Jun;46(2):157-203.


It is evident that in the last decade or so, a vast amount of new information has become available concerning the various 5-HT receptor types and their characteristics. This derives from two main research approaches, operational pharmacology, using selective ligands (both agonists and antagonists), and, more recently, molecular biology. Although the scientific community continues to deliberate about the hierarchy of criteria for neurotransmitter receptor characterisation, there seems good agreement between the two approaches regarding 5-HT receptor classification. In addition, the information regarding transduction mechanisms and second messengers is also entirely consistent. Thus, on the basis of these essential criteria for receptor characterisation and classification, there are at least three main groups or classes of 5-HT receptor: 5-HT1, 5-HT2, and 5-HT3. Each group is not only operationally but also structurally distinct, with each receptor group having its own distinct transducing system. The more recently identified 5-HT4 receptor almost undoubtedly represents a fourth 5-HT receptor class on the basis of operational and transductional data, but this will only be definitively shown when the cDNA for the receptor has been cloned and the amino acid sequence of the protein is known. Although those 5-HT receptors that have been fully characterised and classified to date (and, hence, named with confidence) would seem to mediate the majority of the actions of 5-HT throughout the mammalian body, not all receptors for 5-HT are fully encompassed within our scheme of classification. These apparent anomalies must be recognised and need further study. They may or may not represent new groups of 5-HT receptor or subtypes of already known groups of 5-HT receptor. Even though the cDNAs for the 5-ht1E, 5-ht1F, 5-ht5, 5-ht6, and 5-ht7 receptors have been cloned and their amino acid sequence defined, more data are necessary concerning their operational and transductional characteristics before one can be confident of the suitability of their appellations. Therefore, it is important to rationalise in concert all of the available data from studies involving both operational approaches of the classical pharmacological type and those from molecular and cellular biology.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Serotonin / classification*
  • Receptors, Serotonin / drug effects
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists