Serotonin excites neurons in the human submucous plexus via 5-HT_3 receptors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • K Michel
  • F Zeller
  • R Langer
  • H Nekarda
  • CA Brady
  • M Schemann

Colleges, School and Institutes


BACKGROUND & AIMS: Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) is a key signaling molecule in the gut. Recently, the neural 5-HT3 receptor received a lot of attention as a possible target in functional bowel diseases. Yet, the 5-HT3 receptor-mediated changes in properties of human enteric neurons is unknown. METHODS: We used a fast imaging technique in combination with the potentiometric dye 1-(3-sulfonatopropyl)-4-[beta[2-(di-n-octylamino)-6-naphthyl]vinyl]pyridinium betaine to monitor directly the membrane potential changes in neurons of human submucous plexus from surgical specimens of 21 patients. An Ussing chamber technique was used to study 5-HT3 receptor involvement in chloride secretion. RESULTS: Local microejection of 5-HT directly onto ganglion cells resulted in a transient excitation of enteric neurons characterized by increased spike discharge. This response was mimicked by the 5-HT3 receptor agonist, 2-methyl-5-HT, and blocked by the 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, tropisetron. The proportions of 5-HT-responsive nerve cells per ganglion ranged from 25.5% +/- 18.4% in the duodenum to 54.2% +/- 46.9% in the colon. Interestingly, 2-methyl-5-HT did not evoke chloride secretion in the human intestine but it did in the guinea-pig intestine. Specific 5-HT3A and 5-HT3B receptor subunit immunoreactivity as well as 5-HT3A and 5-HT3B receptor-specific messenger RNA were detected in the tissue samples. Based on co-labeling with the pan-neuronal marker HuC/D we conclude that submucous nerve cells potentially express heteromeric 5-HT3A/B receptors. CONCLUSIONS: We show that 5-HT excited human enteric neurons via 5-HT3 receptors, which may comprise both 5-HT3A and 5-HT3B receptor subunits.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1326
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2005

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