, Volume 213, Issue 2–3, pp 183–212 | Cite as

Brain serotonin receptors and transporters: initiation vs. termination of escalated aggression

  • Aki Takahashi
  • Isabel M. Quadros
  • Rosa M. M. de Almeida
  • Klaus A. Miczek



Recent findings have shown a complexly regulated 5-HT system as it is linked to different kinds of aggression.


We focus on (1) phasic and tonic changes of 5-HT and (2) state and trait of aggression, and emphasize the different receptor subtypes, their role in specific brain regions, feed-back regulation and modulation by other amines, acids and peptides.


New pharmacological tools differentiate the first three 5-HT receptor families and their modulation by GABA, glutamate and CRF. Activation of 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B and 5-HT2A/2C receptors in mesocorticolimbic areas, reduce species-typical and other aggressive behaviors. In contrast, agonists at 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptors in the medial prefrontal cortex or septal area can increase aggressive behavior under specific conditions. Activation of serotonin transporters reduce mainly pathological aggression. Genetic analyses of aggressive individuals have identified several molecules that affect the 5-HT system directly (e.g., Tph2, 5-HT1B, 5-HT transporter, Pet1, MAOA) or indirectly (e.g., Neuropeptide Y, αCaMKII, NOS, BDNF). Dysfunction in genes for MAOA escalates pathological aggression in rodents and humans, particularly in interaction with specific experiences.


Feedback to autoreceptors of the 5-HT1 family and modulation via heteroreceptors are important in the expression of aggressive behavior. Tonic increase of the 5-HT2 family expression may cause escalated aggression, whereas the phasic increase of 5-HT2 receptors inhibits aggressive behaviors. Polymorphisms in the genes of 5-HT transporters or rate-limiting synthetic and metabolic enzymes of 5-HT modulate aggression, often requiring interaction with the rearing environment.


Aggression Serotonin GABA Glutamate CRF Raphe Prefrontal cortex Hypothalamus Septum Gene regulation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aki Takahashi
    • 2
  • Isabel M. Quadros
    • 1
  • Rosa M. M. de Almeida
    • 3
  • Klaus A. Miczek
    • 1
  1. 1.Tufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  2. 2.National Institute of GeneticsMishimaJapan
  3. 3.UFRGSPorto AlegreBrazil

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