Serotonin-induced constriction of ocular arteries in atherosclerotic monkeys. Implications for ischemic disorders of the retina and optic nerve head

Arch Ophthalmol. 1997 Feb;115(2):220-8. doi: 10.1001/archopht.1997.01100150222012.


Background: Ischemic disorders of the retina and optic nerve head, which constitute a common cause of visual loss, are usually seen in patients with atherosclerosis.

Objective: To test the hypothesis that serotonin, which is released when platelets aggregate, may produce vasospasm in atherosclerotic monkeys and, thus, may contribute to the ischemic disorders and that short-term dietary treatment of atherosclerosis causes the propensity to vasospasm to subside.

Methods: We studied the response of retinal and posterior ciliary circulation to serotonin in 18 atherosclerotic (25 eyes) and 5 normal (8 eyes) cynomolgus monkeys. The eyes were evaluated by color fundus photography and fluorescein fundus angiography. The eyes were examined under basal conditions and, at a different time, during the intravenous infusion of serotonin. In 6 of the 18 atherosclerotic animals, the evaluation was repeated 5 to 12 months after discontinuing the atherogenic diet (ie, the regression group).

Results: Serotonin had no effect in normal monkeys. In 18 atherosclerotic monkeys, serotonin produced transient occlusion or delayed filling of the central retinal artery and/or posterior ciliary artery (PCA) in 9 eyes of 9 animals, involving the central retinal artery in 5, lateral PCA in 8, and medial PCA in 5, in various combinations. In 6 animals (6 eyes) of the regression group, the vasoconstrictor effect of serotonin was abolished completely, except in the medial PCA in 1 eye.

Conclusions: Serotonin, in the presence of atherosclerotic lesions, can cause transient, complete occlusion or impaired blood flow in the central retinal artery and/or PCA. We speculate that this mechanism may play a role in the development of ischemic disorders of the retina and optic nerve head. Discontinuing the atherogenic diet abolished or markedly improved the serotonin-induced vasoconstriction within a few months.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteries
  • Arteriosclerosis / complications*
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Ciliary Body / blood supply
  • Ciliary Body / drug effects
  • Ciliary Body / physiopathology
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Ischemia / chemically induced*
  • Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Optic Disk / blood supply*
  • Optic Disk / drug effects
  • Optic Disk / physiopathology
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / chemically induced*
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / physiopathology
  • Retinal Artery* / drug effects
  • Retinal Artery* / physiopathology
  • Serotonin / administration & dosage
  • Serotonin / pharmacology*


  • Serotonin