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Papers of the Week

2019 Jun



Serotonin-estrogen interactions: what can we learn from pregnancy?


Hudon Thibeault A-A, Sanderson TJ, Vaillancourt C
Biochimie. 2019 Jun; 161:88-108.
PMID: 30946949.


We have reviewed the scientific literature related to four diseases in which to serotonin (5-HT) is involved in the etiology, herein named 5-HT-linked diseases, and whose prevalence is influenced by estrogenic status: depression, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome and eating disorders. These diseases all have in common a sex-dimorphic prevalence, with women more frequently affected than men. The co-occurrence between these 5-HT-linked diseases suggests that they have common physiopathological mechanisms. In most 5-HT-linked diseases (except for anorexia nervosa and irritable bowel syndrome), a decrease in the serotonergic tone is observed and estrogens are thought to contribute to the improvement of symptoms by stimulating the serotonergic system. Human pregnancy is characterized by a unique 5-HT and estrogen synthesis by the placenta. Pregnancy-specific disorders, such as hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes mellitus and pre-eclampsia, are associated with a hyperserotonergic state and decreased estrogen levels. Fetal programming of 5-HT-linked diseases is a complex phenomenon that involves notably fetal-sex differences, which suggest the implication of sex steroids. From a mechanistic point of view, we hypothesize that estrogens regulate the serotonergic system, resulting in a protective effect against 5-HT-linked diseases, but that, in turn, 5-HT affects estrogen synthesis in an attempt to retrieve homeostasis. These two processes (5-HT and estrogen biosynthesis) are crucial for successful pregnancy outcomes, and thus, a disruption of this 5-HT-estrogen relationship may explain pregnancy-specific pathologies or pregnancy complications associated with 5-HT-linked diseases.