Neurochemical, behavioral, and physiological effects of pharmacologically enhanced serotonin levels in serotonin transporter (SERT)-deficient mice

Meredith A. Fox, Catherine L. Jensen, Helen T. French, Alison R. Stein, Su Jan Huang, Teresa J. Tolliver, Dennis L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Rationale: Serotonin transporter (SERT) knockout (-/-) mice have an altered phenotype in adulthood, including high baseline anxiety and depressive-like behaviors, associated with increased baseline extracellular serotonin levels throughout life. Objectives: To examine the effects of increases in serotonin following the administration of the serotonin precursor 5-hydroxy-l-tryptophan (5-HTP) in SERT wild-type (+/+), heterozygous (+/-), and -/- mice. Results: 5-HTP increased serotonin in all five brain areas examined with approximately 2- to 5-fold increases in SERT+/+ and +/- mice, and with greater 4.5- to 11.7-fold increases in SERT-/- mice. Behaviorally, 5-HTP induced exaggerated serotonin syndrome behaviors in SERT-/-, mice with similar effects in male and female mice. Studies suggest promiscuous serotonin uptake by the dopamine transporter (DAT) in SERT-/- mice, and here, the DAT blocker GBR 12909 enhanced 5-HTP-induced behaviors in SERT-/- mice. Physiologically, 5-HTP induced exaggerated temperature effects in SERT-deficient mice. The 5-HT1A antagonist WAY 100635 decreased 5-HTP-induced hypothermia in SERT+/+ and +/- mice with no effect in SERT-/- mice, whereas the 5-HT7 antagonist SB 269970 decreased this exaggerated response in SERT-/- mice only. WAY 100635 and SB 269970 together completely blocked 5-HTP-induced hypothermia in SERT+/- and -/- mice. Conclusions: These studies demonstrate that SERT-/- mice have exaggerated neurochemical, behavioral, and physiological responses to further increases in serotonin, and provide the first evidence of intact 5-HT 7 receptor function in SERT-/- mice, with interesting interactions between 5-HT1A and 5-HT7 receptors. As roles for 5-HT 7 receptors in anxiety and depression were recently established, the current findings have implications for understanding the high anxiety and depressive-like phenotype of SERT-deficient mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-218
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology


  • 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP)
  • 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT)
  • Dopamine transporter (DAT)
  • High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)
  • Serotonin syndrome behaviors
  • Temperature


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