Antidepressant-like behavioral effects of serotonin receptor agonists

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1994 Spring;18(1):85-95. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(94)90039-6.


The clinical discoveries that drugs that stimulate 5-HT neurotransmission, either by inhibiting 5-HT uptake or by stimulating postsynaptic receptors directly, have antidepressant properties has stimulated interest in defining the role of the 5-HT receptor system in the clinical effects of antidepressant drugs. Two approaches are reviewed in this paper that address the neurochemical mediation of the therapeutic effects of antidepressant drugs from the standpoint of animal behavior. The first approach utilizes a behavioral response in rats, the forced swimming test, that correlates well with predicting antidepressant drugs in humans. Studies are reviewed that examined serotonergic compounds in the forced swimming test, from the standpoint of identifying better serotonergic mechanisms involved in the antidepressant response. Both 5-HT uptake inhibitors and 5-HT1A receptor agonists produce effects in the forced swimming test that are similar to those of other classes of antidepressant drugs. In contrast, agonists at other 5-HT receptors or 5-HT receptor antagonists do not produce antidepressant-like behavioral effects. Evidence for an important role of 5-HT1A receptors in the antidepressant response is supported by findings that antagonists of 5HT1A receptors prevent the ability of 5-HT1A receptor agonists to reduce immobility in the forced swimming test. The results of studies interfering with 5-HT neurotransmission, either by inhibition of 5-HT synthesis or by the destruction of 5-HT neurons, favor the idea that the effects of 5-HT1A receptor agonists are produced by the stimulation of postsynaptic 5-HT1A receptors. The second approach for studying the behavioral effects of antidepressant drugs employs drug discrimination studies, conducted using a discriminated taste aversion procedure, to provide a method for studying the discriminative stimulus effects of the antidepressant 5-HT uptake inhibitor sertraline. Rats were trained to discriminate the effects of sertraline (10 mg/kg) from saline. Other 5-HT uptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine, fluvoxamine and paroxetine, substituted for the sertraline stimulus. High doses of norepinephrine uptake inhibitors, such as desipramine or maprotiline, were required to produce similar effects. These two behavioral approaches promise to be useful for defining the important pharmacological effects associated with the behavioral effects of antidepressant drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists