The serotonin signaling system: from basic understanding to drug development for functional GI disorders

Michael D Gershon, Jan Tack


Serotonin is an important gastrointestinal signaling molecule. It is a paracrine messenger utilized by enterochromaffin (EC) cells, which function as sensory transducers. Serotonin activates intrinsic and extrinsic primary afferent neurons to, respectively, initiate peristaltic and secretory reflexes and to transmit information to the central nervous system. Serotonin is also a neurotransmitter utilized by a system of long descending myenteric interneurons. Serotonin is synthesized through the actions of 2 different tryptophan hydroxylases, TpH1 and TpH2, which are found, respectively, in EC cells and neurons. Serotonin is inactivated by the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT)-mediated uptake into enterocytes or neurons. The presence of many serotonin receptor subtypes enables selective drugs to be designed to therapeutically modulate gastrointestinal motility, secretion, and sensation. Current examples include tegaserod, a 5-HT(4) partial agonist, which has been approved for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation in women and for chronic constipation in men and women. The 5-HT(3) antagonists, granisetron and ondansetron, are useful in combating the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy, and aloset...Continue Reading

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