This paper reviews the role of central serotonin-containing neurons in the control of blood pressure. Central serotonin nerves have their cell bodies in the brainstem in a number of discrete collections, from where they ascend to ramify throughout the brain, descend to terminate in the spinal cord, or send shorter projections terminating in medulla, pons, and midbrain. Activation of one important ascending serotonin pathway innervating the preoptic region of the hypothalamus causes an increase in blood pressure. Activation of a bulbospinal serotonin projection descending from the ventrolateral medulla (the B3 cell group) to terminate in the intermediolateral cell column (IML) also evokes a pressor response. This pressor response is independent of that elicited by stimulation of the ventrolateral medulla in the adjacent but separate area containing the C1 adrenaline cell group. The pressor action appears to depend on increased release of serotonin, as detected by microdialysis in the area of the IML, and to be mediated by serotonin receptors of the 5HT1 subclass, probably located on sympathetic preganglionic neurons. It is possible that neuroactive excitatory amino acids, such as glutamate or aspartate, and neuropeptides such as substance P, also play a part in the pressor response evoked by stimulation of the ventrolateral medulla in the area of the lateral B3 serotonin cells. This descending serotonin pathway also appears important in mediating the hypotensive action of the antihypertensive drugs methyldopa and clonidine.
- and 5HT receptors
- bulbospinal serotonin neurons
- ventrolateral medulla