Serotonin as a homeostatic regulator of lactation

R. J. Collier, L. L. Hernandez, N. D. Horseman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Serotonin (5-HT), a neurotransmitter produced in mammary epithelial cells (MECs), acts via autocrine-paracrine mechanisms on MECs to regulate milk secretion in a variety of species. Recent studies in dairy cows reported that 5-HT ligands affect milk yield and composition. We determined the mRNA expression of bovine 5-HT receptor (5-HTR) subtypes in bovine mammary tissue (BMT) and cultured bovine MECs. We then used pharmacologic agents to evaluate functional activities of 5-HTR subtypes. The mRNAs for five receptor isoforms (5-HTR1B, 5-HTR2A, 5-HTR2B, 5-HTR4, and 5-HTR7) were identified by conventional reverse transcription PCR, real-time PCR, and in situ hybridization in BMT. In addition to luminal MEC expression, 5-HTR4 was expressed in myoepithelium, and 5-HTR1B, HTR2A, and HTR2B were expressed in small mammary blood vessels. Studies to date report that there are multiple 5-HTR isoforms in mammary tissue of rodents, humans, and cattle. Inhibition of the 5-HT reuptake transporter with selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) disrupted tight junctions and decreased milk protein mRNA expression in mouse, human, and bovine mammary cells. Selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitors act to increase the cellular exposure to 5-HT by preventing reuptake of 5-HT by the cell and eventual degradation. Increasing 5-HT concentration in milk via inhibiting its reuptake (SSRI), or by increasing the precursor for 5-HT synthesis 5-hydroxytryptophan, accelerated decline in milk synthesis at dry-off. We conclude that the 5-HT system in mammary tissue acts as a homeostatic regulator of lactation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalDomestic Animal Endocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Mammary gland
  • Milk yield
  • Receptor
  • Serotonin
  • Transporter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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