Physiopharmacological interactions between stress hormones and central serotonergic systems

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. Jan-Apr 1993;18(1):1-32. doi: 10.1016/0165-0173(93)90005-k.


The present review tries to delineate some mechanisms through which the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) interact with central serotonergic systems. The recent progress in 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptor pharmacology has helped to define the means by which central serotonergic activity may alter the respective activities of the SNS (sympathetic nerves and adrenomedulla) and of the HPA axis. These pharmacological findings have also helped to characterize the differential effects of central 5-HT upon different branches of the SNS and the numerous sites at which 5-HT exerts stimulatory influences upon the HPA axis. Although relevant to stress-related neuroendocrinology, the extent to which these interactions are involved in the antidepressant/anxiolytic properties of some serotonergic agents still remains to be clarified. Beside these findings, there is also abundant evidence for a tight control of central serotonergic systems by stress hormones. Activation of the SNS increases, by numerous means, central availability of tryptophan, whereas glucocorticoids exert differential actions upon the intra- and the extraneuronal regulation of 5-HT function. Actually, a significant number of these mechanisms is involved in the maintenance of homeostasis during stressful events, thereby conferring to these mechanisms a key role in adaptation processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism*


  • Hormones
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin