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CNS Spectr. 2003 Aug;8(8):572-7.

New lessons from knockout mice: The role of serotonin during development and its possible contribution to the origins of neuropsychiatric disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Division of Psychobiology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Serotonin (5-HT) modulates numerous processes in the central nervous system that are relevant to neuropsychiatric function and dysfunction. It exerts significant effects on anxiety, mood, impulsivity, sleep, ingestive behavior, reward systems, and psychosis. Serotonergic dysfunction has been implicated in several psychiatric conditions but efforts to more clearly understand the mechanisms of this influence have been hampered by the complexity of this system at the receptor level. There are at least 14 distinct receptors that mediate the effects of 5-HT as well as several enzymes that control its synthesis and metabolism. Pharmacologic agents that target specific receptors have provided clues regarding the function of these receptors in the human brain. 5-HT is also an important modulator of neural development and several groups have employed a genetic strategy relevant to behavior. Several inactivation mutations of specific 5-HT receptors have been generated producing interesting behavioral phenotypes related to anxiety, depression, drug abuse, psychosis, and cognition. In many cases, knockout mice have been used to confirm what has already been suspected based on pharmacologic studies. In other instances, mutations have demonstrated new functions of serotonergic genes in development and behavior.

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