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J Psychiatr Res. 2003 Sep-Oct;37(5):357-73.

Involvement of serotonin in depression: evidence from postmortem and imaging studies of serotonin receptors and the serotonin transporter.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (Box 127), The University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson 39211, USA.


Definitive conclusions on the role of serotonin receptors and transporter in suicide and depression have been elusive in studies of postmortem brain tissue. A number of methodological differences in these studies have made it difficult to reach a consensus, but crucial issues are being identified and incorporated into newer studies. This review will follow the evolution of serotonin receptor and transporter studies in postmortem tissues that initially focused on suicide and gradually incorporated depressive disorders as psychiatric assessments were increasingly performed. Studies in postmortem tissues on the serotonin-1A and serotonin-2A receptors and the serotonin transporter will be reviewed and compared with imaging studies of the same sites in depressed subjects. Critical issues to control in future studies of serotonin receptors in postmortem tissues include variables such as the cause of death (i.e. suicide), the specific psychiatric diagnoses of the subjects, whether the disorder was in remission at the time of death, long-term medication histories, psychoactive substance use disorders, the smoking history, the hemisphere from which tissues were dissected, and the specific cytoarchitectonic region to be evaluated. Carefully controlled studies in postmortem tissues will ensure a greater likelihood of reaching a consensus on the involvement of monoamine measures in the etiology of depression.

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