Emerging Roles for Serotonin in Regulating Metabolism: New Implications for an Ancient Molecule

Julian M. Yabut, Justin D. Crane, Alexander E. Green, Damien J. Keating, Waliul I. Khan, Gregory R. Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


Serotonin is a phylogenetically ancient biogenic amine that has played an integral role in maintaining energy homeostasis for billions of years. In mammals, serotonin produced within the central nervous system regulates behavior, suppresses appetite, and promotes energy expenditure by increasing sympathetic drive to brown adipose tissue. In addition to these central circuits, emerging evidence also suggests an important role for peripheral serotonin as a factor that enhances nutrient absorption and storage. Specifically, glucose and fatty acids stimulate the release of serotonin from the duodenum, promoting gut peristalsis and nutrient absorption. Serotonin also enters the bloodstream and interacts with multiple organs, priming the body for energy storage by promoting insulin secretion and de novo lipogenesis in the liver and white adipose tissue, while reducing lipolysis and the metabolic activity of brown and beige adipose tissue. Collectively, peripheral serotonin acts as an endocrine factor to promote the efficient storage of energy by upregulating lipid anabolism. Pharmacological inhibition of serotonin synthesis or signaling in key metabolic tissues are potential drug targets for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1092-1107
Number of pages16
JournalEndocrine Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2019


  • Serotonin
  • Metabolism
  • 5-hydroxytryptamine
  • central nervous system


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