Serotonin and the serotonin transporter in the adrenal gland

Mary Beth Bauer, Kevin P.M. Currie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The adrenal glands are key components of the mammalian endocrine system, helping maintain physiological homeostasis and the coordinated response to stress. Each adrenal gland has two morphologically and functionally distinct regions, the outer cortex and inner medulla. The cortex is organized into three concentric zones which secrete steroid hormones, including aldosterone and cortisol. Neural crest-derived chromaffin cells in the medulla are innervated by preganglionic sympathetic neurons and secrete catecholamines (epinephrine, norepinephrine) and neuropeptides into the bloodstream, thereby functioning as the neuroendocrine arm of the sympathetic nervous system. In this article we review serotonin (5-HT) and the serotonin transporter (SERT; SLC6A4) in the adrenal gland. In the adrenal cortex, 5-HT, primarily sourced from resident mast cells, acts as a paracrine signal to stimulate aldosterone and cortisol secretion through 5-HT4/5-HT7 receptors. Medullary chromaffin cells contain a small amount of 5-HT due to SERT-mediated uptake and express 5-HT1A receptors which inhibit secretion. The atypical mechanism of the 5-HT1A receptors and interaction with SERT fine tune this autocrine pathway to control stress-evoked catecholamine secretion. Receptor-independent signaling by SERT/intracellular 5-HT modulates the amount and kinetics of transmitter release from single vesicle fusion events. SERT might also influence stress-evoked upregulation of tyrosine hydroxylase transcription. Transient signaling via 5-HT3 receptors during embryonic development can limit the number of chromaffin cells found in the mature adrenal gland. Together, this emerging evidence suggests that the adrenal medulla is a peripheral hub for serotonergic control of the sympathoadrenal stress response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVitamins and Hormones
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Publication series

NameVitamins and Hormones
ISSN (Print)0083-6729

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology


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