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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Jul;38(7):1014-20. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.10.006. Epub 2012 Nov 10.

Glucocorticoid treatment increases density of serotonin 5-HT2A receptors in humans.

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Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Neurosciences, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Umeå University Hospital, Umeå, Sweden.



Interactions between the serotonergic system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis have been suggested, albeit the details for such interactions have yet to be established. Animal studies have shown that the density of serotonin 5-HT2A receptors is increased after administration of exogenous glucocorticoids.


The objective of this study was to explore possible changes in the pattern of density and affinity of 5-HT2A receptors in humans after treatment with glucocorticoids.


Using a radioactive binding assay, the density and affinity (measured as Bmax and Kd) of 5-HT2A serotonin receptors were measured in blood samples drawn from 27 individuals diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica and/or giant cell arteritis before and after start of an oral treatment with prednisolone. For each patient Bmax and Kd at baseline before prednisolone treatment were compared with Bmax and Kd in samples drawn at a first and second follow-up clinic visit at an average of 8.8 (±2.5) days and 33.6 (±6.8) days, respectively.


The density of 5-HT2A receptors increased after treatment in 23 individuals. The mean Bmax value at baseline for all patients was 45.2 fmol/mg protein compared with 64.9 fmol/mg protein in the corresponding samples drawn at the second follow-up visit (p=0.001). There also was an association between individuals accumulated prednisolone dose and the magnitude of change in Bmax between baseline and the first follow-up visit. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate, platelet count or gender had no influence on the results. There were no significant differences in Kd during the treatment period. However, a low Kd value at baseline was a predictor for an increase in Bmax following treatment.


The results of this study showed that the density of 5-HT2A serotonin receptors in man is increased after a subchronic treatment with glucocorticoids. The magnitude of the increase appears to be associated with the affinity of 5-HT2A receptors before treatment and the accumulated dose of glucocorticoid early in the treatment period.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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