Non-conventional features of peripheral serotonin signalling — the gut and beyond

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Abstract

Serotonin was first discovered in the gut, and its conventional actions as an intercellular signalling molecule in the intrinsic and extrinsic enteric reflexes are well recognized, as are a number of serotonin signalling pharmacotherapeutic targets for treatment of nausea, diarrhoea or constipation. The latest discoveries have greatly broadened our understanding of non-conventional actions of peripheral serotonin within the gastrointestinal tract and in a number of other tissues. For example, it is now clear that bacteria within the lumen of the bowel influence serotonin synthesis and release by enterochromaffin cells. Also, serotonin can act both as a pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signalling molecule in the intestinal mucosa via activation of serotonin receptors (5-HT7 or 5-HT4 receptors, respectively). For decades, serotonin receptors have been known to exist in a variety of tissues other than the gut, but studies have now provided strong evidence for physiological roles of serotonin in several important processes, including haematopoiesis, metabolic homeostasis and bone metabolism. Furthermore, evidence for serotonin synthesis in peripheral tissues outside of the gut is emerging. In this Review, we expand the discussion beyond gastrointestinal functions to highlight the roles of peripheral serotonin in colitis, haematopoiesis, energy and bone metabolism, and how serotonin is influenced by the gut microbiota.

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