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Concept: 5-HT receptor


A recent open-label pilot study (N = 15) found that two to three moderate to high doses (20 and 30 mg/70 kg) of the serotonin 2A receptor agonist, psilocybin, in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for smoking cessation, resulted in substantially higher 6-month smoking abstinence rates than are typically observed with other medications or CBT alone.

Concepts: Smoking cessation, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Inverse agonist, Adrenergic receptor, 5-HT receptor


The amygdala is a key structure in serotonergic emotion-processing circuits. In healthy volunteers, acute administration of the serotonin 1A/2A/2C receptor agonist psilocybin reduces neural responses to negative stimuli and induces mood changes toward positive states. However, it is little-known whether psilocybin reduces amygdala reactivity to negative stimuli and whether any change in amygdala reactivity is related to mood change.

Concepts: Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Change, Inverse agonist, 5-HT receptor


Lorcaserin, a serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) 2C receptor agonist, was recently approved for the treatment of obesity. We previously suggested that 5-HT2C receptor agonists affect reward processes and reduce the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. Here, we determined whether lorcaserin (1) decreases responding for brain stimulation reward (BSR) and (2) prevents nicotine from enhancing the efficacy of BSR. Rats were trained on the intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) paradigm to nosepoke for BSR of either the dorsal raphé nucleus or left medial forebrain bundle. In Experiment 1, lorcaserin (0.3-1.0 mg/kg) dose-dependently reduced the efficacy of BSR. This effect was blocked by prior administration of the 5-HT2C receptor antagonist SB242084. In Experiment 2, separate groups of rats received saline or nicotine (0.4 mg/kg) for eight sessions prior to testing. Although thresholds were unaltered in saline-treated rats, nicotine reduced reward thresholds. An injection of lorcaserin (0.3 mg/kg) prior to nicotine prevented the reward-enhancing effect of nicotine across multiple test sessions. These results demonstrated that lorcaserin reduces the rewarding value of BSR and also prevents nicotine from facilitating ICSS. Hence, lorcaserin may be effective in treating psychiatric disorders, including obesity and nicotine addiction, by reducing the value of food or drug rewards.

Concepts: Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Drug addiction, Inverse agonist, Buprenorphine, Reward system, 5-HT receptor


The serotonergic pathways originating in the dorsal and median raphe nuclei (DR and MnR, respectively) are critically involved in cortical function. Serotonin (5-HT), acting on postsynaptic and presynaptic receptors, is involved in cognition, mood, impulse control and motor functions by (1) modulating the activity of different neuronal types, and (2) varying the release of other neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, GABA, acetylcholine and dopamine. Also, 5-HT seems to play an important role in cortical development. Of all cortical regions, the frontal lobe is the area most enriched in serotonergic axons and 5-HT receptors. 5-HT and selective receptor agonists modulate the excitability of cortical neurons and their discharge rate through the activation of several receptor subtypes, of which the 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A, and 5-HT3 subtypes play a major role. Little is known, however, on the role of other excitatory receptors moderately expressed in cortical areas, such as 5-HT2C, 5-HT4, 5-HT6, and 5-HT7. In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors are key players and exert opposite effects on the activity of pyramidal neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). The activation of 5-HT1A receptors in mPFC hyperpolarizes pyramidal neurons whereas that of 5-HT2A receptors results in neuronal depolarization, reduction of the afterhyperpolarization and increase of excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and of discharge rate. 5-HT can also stimulate excitatory (5-HT2A and 5-HT3) and inhibitory (5-HT1A) receptors in GABA interneurons to modulate synaptic GABA inputs onto pyramidal neurons. Likewise, the pharmacological manipulation of various 5-HT receptors alters oscillatory activity in PFC, suggesting that 5-HT is also involved in the control of cortical network activity. A better understanding of the actions of 5-HT in PFC may help to develop treatments for mood and cognitive disorders associated with an abnormal function of the frontal lobe.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Action potential, Cerebral cortex, Serotonin, Frontal lobe, 5-HT receptor


An impaired signaling capacity of the serotonin (5-HT) 5-HT2C receptor (5-HT2CR) has been implicated in the neurobehavioral processes that promote relapse vulnerability in cocaine use disorder (CUD). Restoration of the diminished 5-HT2CR signaling through positive allosteric modulation presents a novel therapeutic approach. Various new molecules with the 4-alkylpiperidine-2-carboxamide scaffold were designed, synthesized, and pharmacologically evaluated, leading to the discovery of several 5-HT2CR positive allosteric modulators (PAMs). Compound 16 (CYD-1-79) potentiated 5-HT-evoked intracellular calcium release in cells stably expressing the human 5-HT2CR, but not the 5-HT2AR cells. A topographically distinct allosteric site was identified based on the newly solved 5-HT2CR structure. Compound 16 modulated 5-HT2CR-mediated spontaneous ambulation, partially substituted for the training dose of the 5-HT2CR agonist WAY163909, synergized with a low dose of WAY163909 to substitute fully for the stimulus effects of WAY163909, and attenuated relapse vulnerability as assessed in a rodent self-administration model, indicating its therapeutic promise for CUD.

Concepts: Allosteric regulation, Pharmacology, Ligand, Serotonin, Modulation, Module, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2C receptor


Drugs frequently require interactions with multiple targets-via a process known as polypharmacology-to achieve their therapeutic actions. Currently, drugs targeting several serotonin receptors, including the 5-HT2C receptor, are useful for treating obesity, drug abuse, and schizophrenia. The competing challenges of developing selective 5-HT2C receptor ligands or creating drugs with a defined polypharmacological profile, especially aimed at G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), remain extremely difficult. Here, we solved two structures of the 5-HT2C receptor in complex with the highly promiscuous agonist ergotamine and the 5-HT2A-C receptor-selective inverse agonist ritanserin at resolutions of 3.0 Å and 2.7 Å, respectively. We analyzed their respective binding poses to provide mechanistic insights into their receptor recognition and opposing pharmacological actions. This study investigates the structural basis of polypharmacology at canonical GPCRs and illustrates how understanding characteristic patterns of ligand-receptor interaction and activation may ultimately facilitate drug design at multiple GPCRs.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Signal transduction, Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2C receptor


Dravet syndrome is a catastrophic childhood epilepsy with early-onset seizures, delayed language and motor development, sleep disturbances, anxiety-like behaviour, severe cognitive deficit and an increased risk of fatality. It is primarily caused by de novo mutations of the SCN1A gene encoding a neuronal voltage-activated sodium channel. Zebrafish with a mutation in the SCN1A homologue recapitulate spontaneous seizure activity and mimic the convulsive behavioural movements observed in Dravet syndrome. Here, we show that phenotypic screening of drug libraries in zebrafish scn1 mutants rapidly and successfully identifies new therapeutics. We demonstrate that clemizole binds to serotonin receptors and its antiepileptic activity can be mimicked by drugs acting on serotonin signalling pathways e.g. trazodone and lorcaserin. Coincident with these zebrafish findings, we treated five medically intractable Dravet syndrome patients with a clinically-approved serotonin receptor agonist (lorcaserin, Belviq®) and observed some promising results in terms of reductions in seizure frequency and/or severity. Our findings demonstrate a rapid path from preclinical discovery in zebrafish, through target identification, to potential clinical treatments for Dravet syndrome.

Concepts: Mutation, Receptor antagonist, Epilepsy, Serotonin, Agonist, Seizure, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2C receptor


To determine safety and efficacy of the 5HT1A serotonin partial agonist buspirone on core autism and associated features in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Autism, Agonist, Autism spectrum, 5-HT receptor, Buspirone, Partial agonist


Drugs active at G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) can differentially modulate either canonical or noncanonical signaling pathways via a phenomenon known as functional selectivity or biased signaling. We report biochemical studies that show that the hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), its precursor ergotamine (ERG), and related ergolines display strong functional selectivity for β-arrestin signaling at the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptor 5-HT2B, while being relatively unbiased at the 5-HT1B receptor. To investigate the structural basis for biased signaling, we determined the crystal structure of the human 5-HT2B receptor bound to ERG, and compared it with the 5-HT1B/ERG structure. Given the relatively poor understanding of GPCR structure-function to date, insight into different GPCR signaling pathways is important to better understand both adverse and favorable therapeutic activities.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Serotonin, G protein-coupled receptor, 5-HT receptor, Lysergic acid diethylamide, Lysergic acid, Ergot, Ergotamine


Lorcaserin (LOR) is a selective 5-HT2C receptor agonist that has been FDA approved as a treatment for obesity. The most frequently reported side-effects of LOR include nausea and headache, which can be dose limiting. We have previously reported that in the rat, while LOR produced unconditioned signs characteristic of nausea/malaise, the highly selective 5-HT2C agonist CP-809101 (CP) produced fewer equivalent signs. Because this may indicate a subclass of 5-HT2C agonists having better tolerability, the present studies were designed to further investigate this apparent difference. In a conditioned gaping model, a rodent test of nausea, LOR produced significantly higher gapes compared to CP consistent with it having higher emetogenic properties. Subsequent studies were designed to identify features of each drug that may account for such differences. In rats trained to discriminate CP-809101 from saline, both CP and LOR produced full generalization suggesting a similar interoceptive cue. In vitro tests of functional selectivity designed to examine signaling pathways activated by both drugs in CHO (Chinese hamster ovary) cells expressing h5-HT2C receptors failed to identify evidence for biased signaling differences between LOR and CP. Thus, both drugs showed similar profiles across PLC, PLA2, and ERK signaling pathways. In studies designed to examine pharmacokinetic differences between LOR and CP, while drug plasma levels correlated with increasing dose, CSF levels did not. CSF levels of LOR increased proportionally with dose; however CSF levels of CP plateaued from 6 to 12 mg/kg. Thus, the apparently improved tolerability of CP likely reflects a limit to CNS levels attained at relatively high doses.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Signal transduction, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Functional selectivity, 5-HT receptor