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Concept: 5-HT2C receptor


5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, also known as serotonin) regulates many physiological processes through the 5-HT receptor family. Here we report the crystal structure of 5-HT1B subtype receptor (5-HT1BR) bound to the psychotropic serotonin receptor inverse agonist methiothepin (MT). Crystallization was facilitated by replacing ICL3 with a novel optimized variant of BRIL (OB1) that enhances the formation of intermolecular polar interactions, making OB1 a potential useful tool for structural studies of membrane proteins. Unlike the agonist ergotamine (ERG), MT occupies only the conserved orthosteric binding pocket, explaining the wide spectrum effect of MT on serotonin receptors. Compared with ERG, MT shifts toward TM6 and sterically pushes residues W3276.48, F3306.50 and F3316.51 from inside the orthosteric binding pocket, leading to an outward movement of the extracellular end and a corresponding inward shift of the intracellular end of TM6, a feature shared by other reported inactive G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) structures. Together with the previous agonist-bound serotonin receptor structures, the inverse agonist-bound 5-HT1BR structure identifies a basis for the ligand-mediated switch of 5-HT1BR activity and provides a structural understanding of the inactivation mechanism of 5-HT1BR and some other class A GPCRs, characterized by ligand-induced outward movement of the extracellular end of TM6 that is coupled with inward movement of the cytoplasmic end of this helix.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Receptor, Serotonin, Agonist, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2C receptor, 5-HT1B receptor


The prototypical hallucinogen LSD acts via serotonin receptors, and here we describe the crystal structure of LSD in complex with the human serotonin receptor 5-HT2B. The complex reveals conformational rearrangements to accommodate LSD, providing a structural explanation for the conformational selectivity of LSD’s key diethylamide moiety. LSD dissociates exceptionally slow from both 5-HT2BR and 5-HT2AR-a major target for its psychoactivity. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations suggest that LSD’s slow binding kinetics may be due to a “lid” formed by extracellular loop 2 (EL2) at the entrance to the binding pocket. A mutation predicted to increase the mobility of this lid greatly accelerates LSD’s binding kinetics and selectively dampens LSD-mediated β-arrestin2 recruitment. This study thus reveals an unexpected binding mode of LSD; illuminates key features of its kinetics, stereochemistry, and signaling; and provides a molecular explanation for LSD’s actions at human serotonin receptors. PAPERCLIP.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Receptor, Serotonin, Agonist, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2C receptor, 5-HT1A receptor, 5-HT2B receptor


A core aspect of the human self is the attribution of personal relevance to everyday stimuli enabling us to experience our environment as meaningful [1]. However, abnormalities in the attribution of personal relevance to sensory experiences are also critical features of many psychiatric disorders [2, 3]. Despite their clinical relevance, the neurochemical and anatomical substrates enabling meaningful experiences are largely unknown. Therefore, we investigated the neuropharmacology of personal relevance processing in humans by combining fMRI and the administration of the mixed serotonin (5-HT) and dopamine receptor ® agonist lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), well known to alter the subjective meaning of percepts, with and without pretreatment with the 5-HT2AR antagonist ketanserin. General subjective LSD effects were fully blocked by ketanserin. In addition, ketanserin inhibited the LSD-induced attribution of personal relevance to previously meaningless stimuli and modulated the processing of meaningful stimuli in cortical midline structures. These findings point to the crucial role of the 5-HT2AR subtype and cortical midline regions in the generation and attribution of personal relevance. Our results thus increase our mechanistic understanding of personal relevance processing and reveal potential targets for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses characterized by alterations in personal relevance attribution.

Concepts: Serotonin, Agonist, Amphetamine, 5-HT2C receptor, Lysergic acid diethylamide, Lysergic acid, 5-HT2A receptor, LSD


The development of social behavior is strongly influenced by the serotonin system. Serotonin 2c receptor (5-HT2cR) is particularly interesting in this context considering that pharmacological modulation of 5-HT2cR activity alters social interaction in adult rodents. However, the role of 5-HT2cR in the development of social behavior is unexplored. Here we address this using Htr2c knockout mice, which lack 5-HT2cR. We found that these animals exhibit social behavior deficits as adults but not as juveniles. Moreover, we found that the age of onset of these deficits displays similar timing as the onset of susceptibility to spontaneous death and audiogenic-seizures, consistent with the hypothesis that imbalanced excitation and inhibition (E/I) may contribute to social behavioral deficits. Given that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) features social behavioral deficits and is often co-morbid with epilepsy, and given that 5-HT2cR physically interacts with Pten, we tested whether a second site mutation in the ASD risk gene Pten can modify these phenotypes. The age of spontaneous death is accelerated in mice double mutant for Pten and Htr2c relative to single mutants. We hypothesized that pharmacological antagonism of 5-HT2cR activity in adult animals, which does not cause seizures, might modify social behavioral deficits in Pten haploinsufficient mice. SB 242084, a 5-HT2cR selective antagonist, can reverse the social behavior deficits observed in Pten haploinsufficient mice. Together, these results elucidate a role of 5-HT2cR in the modulation of social behavior and seizure susceptibility in the context of normal development and Pten haploinsufficiency.

Concepts: Psychology, Receptor, Serotonin, Agonist, Autism spectrum, Behavior, Social relation, 5-HT2C receptor


Serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) regulates a wide spectrum of human physiology through the 5-HT receptor family. We report the crystal structures of the human 5-HT1B G protein-coupled receptor bound to the agonist antimigraine medications ergotamine and dihydroergotamine. The structures reveal similar binding modes for these ligands, which occupy the orthosteric pocket and an extended binding pocket close to the extracellular loops. The orthosteric pocket is formed by residues conserved in the 5-HT receptor family, clarifying the family-wide agonist activity of 5-HT. Compared with the accompanying structure of the 5-HT2B receptor, the 5-HT1B receptor displays a 3-angstrom outward shift at the extracellular end of helix V, resulting in a more open extended pocket that explains subtype selectivity. Together with docking and mutagenesis studies, these structures provide a comprehensive structural basis for understanding receptor-ligand interactions and designing subtype-selective serotonergic drugs.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Receptor, Serotonin, Agonist, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2C receptor, 5-HT1B receptor, 5-HT2B receptor


The laryngeal chemoreflex (LCR), an airway protective reflex that causes apnea and bradycardia, has long been suspected as an initiating event in the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Serotonin (5-HT) and 5-HT receptors may be deficient in the brainstems of babies who die of SIDS, and 5-HT seems to be important in terminating apneas directly or in causing arousals or as part of the process of autoresuscitation. We hypothesized that 5-HT in the brainstem would limit the duration of the LCR. We studied anesthetized rat pups between 7 and 21 days of age and made microinjections into the cisterna magna or into the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS). Focal, bilateral microinjections of 5-HT into the caudal NTS significantly shortened the LCR. The 5-HT 1a receptor antagonist, WAY 100635, did not affect the LCR consistently, nor did a 5-HT2 receptor antagonist, ketanserin, alter the duration of the LCR. The 5-HT3 specific agonist, 1-(3-chlorophenyl)-biguanide, microinjected bilaterally into the caudal NTS significantly shortened the LCR. Thus, endogenous 5-HT released within the NTS may curtail the respiratory depression that is part of the LCR, and serotonergic shortening of the LCR may be attributed to activation of 5-HT3 receptors within the NTS. 5-HT3 receptors are expressed presynaptically on C-fiber afferents of the superior laryngeal nerve, and serotonergic shortening of the LCR may be mediated presynaptically by enhanced activation of inhibitory interneurons within the NTS that terminate during the LCR. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Sudden infant death syndrome, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2C receptor


The urethrogenital reflex (UGR) is used as a physiological animal model of the autonomic and somatic activity that accompanies ejaculatory-like reflexes (ELRs). Serotonin (5-HT) plays an important role in regulating ejaculation.

Concepts: Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2C receptor, 5-HT2A receptor, 5-HT2 receptor


A 69-year old man presents with a subacute history of worsening confusion, anxiety and abnormal gait. Brain MRI revealed an extensive non-enhancing signal abnormality of parieto-occipito-temporal white matter. CSF PCR was positive for JC virus, suggestive of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Extensive workup for occult immunosuppression was negative. Although PML in an immunocompetent patient is exceedingly rare, biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. Mirtazapine and mefloquine therapies were initiated and JCV DNA titre decreased by 100-fold at six months. One year later, his clinical course had stabilized and neuroimaging was improved. Our case suggests that PML can rarely afflict immunocompetent individuals and that serotonin receptor targeting pharmacological therapy may improve the outcome.

Concepts: AIDS, Protein, Medicine, Serotonin, Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, JC virus, Polyomavirus, 5-HT2C receptor


Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a major public health problem. High relapse rates and poor treatment retention continue to pose major challenges in OUD treatment. Of the abused opioids, oxycodone is well described to maintain self-administration and evoke the durable conditioned responses (“cue reactivity”) that result from pairing of opioid-related stimuli (e.g., paraphernalia) with repeated abuse. Serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission, particularly through the 5-HT2C receptor (5-HT2CR), regulates psychostimulant reward and cue reactivity, and in the present experiments, we investigated the hypothesis that the selective 5-HT2CR agonist lorcaserin, which is FDA-approved for the treatment of obesity, will suppress oxycodone self-administration and oxycodone-associated cue reactivity in rats. We found that lorcaserin inhibited oxycodone intake, an effect blocked by the selective 5-HT2CR antagonist SB242084. Lorcaserin also decreased responding for the discrete cue complex (“cue reactivity”) previously associated with delivery of oxycodone (i.e., stimulus lights, infusion pump sounds) in both abstinence and extinction-reinstatement models. The selected dose range of lorcaserin (0.25-1 mg/kg) does not overtly alter spontaneous behaviors nor operant responding on inactive levers in the present study. Taken together, the ability of lorcaserin to reduce the oxycodone self-administration and decrease cue reactivity associated with relapse highlights the therapeutic potential for lorcaserin in the treatment of OUD.

Concepts: Opioid, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Morphine, Buprenorphine, Recreational drug use, 5-HT2C receptor


The western diet is known to have detrimental effects on cognition and the gut microbiota, but few studies have investigated how these may be related. Here, we examined whether a probiotic could prevent diet-induced memory deficits. Rats were pre-exposed to vehicle, low or high doses of VSL#3 for 2 weeks before half were switched from chow to a cafeteria diet (Caf) for 25 days; VSL#3 treatment continued until death. High-dose VSL#3 prevented the diet-induced memory deficits on the hippocampal-dependent place task, but the probiotic caused deficits on the perirhinal-dependent object task, irrespective of diet or dose. No differences were observed in anxiety-like behaviour on the elevated plus maze. Gut microbial diversity was dramatically decreased by Caf diet and here, VSL#3 was able to increase the abundance of some taxa contained in the probiotic such as Streptococcus and Lactobacillus and also other taxa including Butyrivibrio, which were decreased by the Caf diet. This affected the predicted profile of microbial metabolic pathways related to antioxidant and bile biosynthesis, and fat and carbohydrate metabolism. In the hippocampus, the Caf diet increased the expression of many genes related to neuroplasticity and serotonin receptor (5HT) 1A, which was normalised in Caf-High rats. Distance-based linear modelling showed that these genes were the best predictors of place memory, and related to microbiota principal component (PC) 1. Neuroplasticity genes in the perirhinal cortex were also affected and related to PC1 but object memory performance was correlated with perirhinal 5HT2C expression and microbiota PC3. These results show that probiotics can be beneficial in situations of gut dysbiosis where memory deficits are evident but may be detrimental in healthy subjects.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 14 March 2017; doi:10.1038/mp.2017.38.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Gut flora, Metabolism, Nutrition, Hippocampus, Serotonin, 5-HT2C receptor