Neuronal serotonin regulates growth of the intestinal mucosa in mice

Erica R. Gross, Michael D. Gershon, Kara G. Margolis, Zoya V. Gertsberg, Robert A. Cowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: The enteric abundance of serotonin (5-HT), its ability to promote proliferation of neural precursors, and reports that 5-HT antagonists affect crypt epithelial proliferation led us to investigate whether 5-HT affects growth and maintenance of the intestinal mucosa in mice. Methods: cMice that lack the serotonin re-uptake transporter (SERTKO mice) and wild-type mice were given injections of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (gain-of-function models). We also analyzed mice that lack tryptophan hydroxylase-1 (TPH1KO mice, which lack mucosal but not neuronal 5-HT) and mice deficient in tryptophan hydroxylase-2 (TPH2KO mice, which lack neuronal but not mucosal 5-HT) (loss-of-function models). Wild-type and SERTKO mice were given ketanserin (an antagonist of the 5-HT receptor, 5-HT2A) or scopolamine (an antagonist of the muscarinic receptor). 5-HT2A receptors and choline acetyltransferase were localized by immunocytochemical analysis. Results: Growth of the mucosa and proliferation of mucosal cells were significantly greater in SERTKO mice and in mice given selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors than in wild-type mice, but were diminished in TPH2KO (but not in TPH1KO) mice. Ketanserin and scopolamine each prevented the ability of SERT knockout or inhibition to increase mucosal growth and proliferation. Cholinergic submucosal neurons reacted with antibodies against 5-HT 2A. Conclusions: 5-HT promotes growth and turnover of the intestinal mucosal epithelium. Surprisingly, these processes appear to be mediated by neuronal, rather than mucosal, 5-HT. The 5-HT2A receptor activates cholinergic neurons, which provide a muscarinic innervation to epithelial effectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-417.e2
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Choline Acetyltransferase
  • Intestinal Development
  • Mouse Model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuronal serotonin regulates growth of the intestinal mucosa in mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this