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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Role of 5-HT in the regulation of the brain-pituitary-adrenal axis: effects of 5-HT on adrenocortical cells.

Serotonin (5-HT) plays a pivotal role in the regulation of the brain-pituitary-adrenal axis. In particular, 5-HT has been shown to control the activity of hypothalamic CRF neurons and pituitary corticotrope cells through activation of 5-HT1A and (or) 5-HT(2A/2C) receptor subtypes. 5-HT, acting through 5-HT2 receptors, can also trigger the renin-angiotensin system by stimulating renin secretion and consequently can enhance aldosterone production. At the adrenal level, 5-HT produced locally stimulates the secretory activity of adrenocortical cells through a paracrine mode of communication. The presence of 5-HT in the adrenal gland has been demonstrated immunohistochemically and biochemically in various species. In the frog, rat, and pig adrenal gland, 5-HT is synthesized by chromaffin cells, while in the mouse adrenal cortex, 5-HT is contained in nerve fibers. In man, 5-HT is present in perivascular mast cells. In vivo and in vitro studies have shown that 5-HT stimulates corticosteroid secretion in various species (including human). The type of receptor involved in the mechanism of action of 5-HT differs between the various species. In frogs and humans, the stimulatory effect of 5-HT on adrenocortical cells is mediated through a 5-HT4 receptor subtype positively coupled to adenylyl cyclase and calcium influx. In the rat, the effect of 5-HT on aldosterone secretion is mediated via activation of 5-HT7 receptors. Clinical studies indicate that 5-HT4 receptor agonists stimulate aldosterone secretion in healthy volunteers and in patients with corticotropic insufficiency and primary hyperaldosteronism. Local serotonergic control of corticosteroid production may be involved in the physiological control of the activity of the adrenal cortex as well as in the pathophysiology of cortisol and aldosterone disorders.[1]


  1. Role of 5-HT in the regulation of the brain-pituitary-adrenal axis: effects of 5-HT on adrenocortical cells. Contesse, V., Lefebvre, H., Lenglet, S., Kuhn, J.M., Delarue, C., Vaudry, H. Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. (2000) [Pubmed]
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