Serotonin and psychostimulant addiction: Focus on 5-HT1A-receptors

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Serotonin1A-receptors (5-HT1A-Rs) are important components of the 5-HT system in the brain. As somatodendritic autoreceptors they control the activity of 5-HT neurons, and, as postsynaptic receptors, the activity in terminal areas. Cocaine (COC), amphetamine (AMPH), methamphetamine (METH) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“Ecstasy”, MDMA) are psychostimulant drugs that can lead to addiction-related behavior in humans and in animals. At the neurochemical level, these psychostimulant drugs interact with monoamine transporters and increase extracellular 5-HT, dopamine and noradrenalin activity in the brain. The increase in 5-HT, which, in addition to dopamine, is a core mechanism of action for drug addiction, hyperactivates 5-HT1A-Rs. Here, we first review the role of the various 5-HT1A-R populations in spontaneous behavior to provide a background to elucidate the contribution of the 5-HT1A-Rs to the organization of psychostimulant-induced addiction behavior. The progress achieved in this field shows the fundamental contribution of brain 5-HT1A-Rs to virtually all behaviors associated with psychostimulant addiction. Importantly, the contribution of pre- and postsynaptic 5-HT1A-Rs can be dissociated and frequently act in opposite directions. We conclude that 5-HT1A-autoreceptors mainly facilitate psychostimulant addiction-related behaviors by a limitation of the 5-HT response in terminal areas. Postsynaptic 5-HT1A-Rs, in contrast, predominantly inhibit the expression of various addiction-related behaviors directly. In addition, they may also influence the local 5-HT response by feedback mechanisms. The reviewed findings do not only show a crucial role of 5-HT1A-Rs in the control of brain 5-HT activity and spontaneous behavior, but also their complex role in the regulation of the psychostimulant-induced 5-HT response and subsequent addiction-related behaviors.

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