Ovarian steroid regulation of serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT) binding, distribution, and function in female macaques

N. Z. Lu, A. J. Eshleman, A. Janowsky, C. L. Bethea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


The serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT) plays an important role in serotonin neurotransmission and in several psychopathological disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders. In this study, we investigated whether the ovarian steroids, estrogen (E) and progesterone (P) regulate SERT binding, intracellular distribution, and function using [3H]citalopram ligand binding with quantitative autoradiography, immunofluorescence histochemistry with confocal microscopy and [3H]serotonin uptake, respectively. Ovariectomized macaques received either placebo, E alone, P alone or E plus P for 28 days. In the raphe, E, P, and E+P treatments did not change SERT binding density. In several hypothalamic nuclei, [3H]citalopram binding was increased by E, P, and E+P. Immunofluorescent SERT in serotonin soma was intracellular and similar among treatments. In the hypothalamus, immunofluorescent SERT was located along the serotonergic axons and there was a significant proliferation of immunofluorescent fibers in hormone-treated animals. In addition, E and E+P treatment increased serotonin uptake in the basal ganglia. These findings suggest that ovarian hormones regulate SERT protein expression and distribution, perhaps via extracellular serotonin or mRNA stability, but not solely at the level of gene transcription. Further investigation on the possible action of ovarian steroids on the directionality of SERT transport is indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-360
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003


  • Depression
  • Estrogen
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Primate
  • Progesterone
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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