Facilitation of serotonin signaling by SSRIs is attenuated by social isolation

Elyse C. Dankoski, Kara L. Agster, Megan E. Fox, Sheryl S. Moy, R. Mark Wightman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Hypofunction of the serotonergic system is often associated with major depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to treat these disorders, and require 3-6 weeks of chronic treatment before improvements in the symptoms are observed. SSRIs inhibit serotonin's transporter, and in doing so, increase extracellular serotonin concentrations. Thus, efficacy of SSRIs likely depends upon the brain's adaptive response to sustained increases in serotonin levels. Individual responsiveness to SSRI treatment may depend on a variety of factors that influence these changes, including ongoing stress. Social isolation is a passive, naturalistic form of chronic mild stress that can model depression in rodents. In this study, we examined how 20-day treatment with the SSRI citalopram (CIT) alters marble-burying (MB), open field behavior, and serotonin signaling in single- vs pair-housed animals. We used in vivo voltammetry to measure electrically evoked serotonin, comparing release rate, net overflow, and clearance. Pair-housed mice were significantly more responsive to CIT treatment, exhibiting reduced MB and facilitation of serotonin release that positively correlated with the frequency of electrical stimulation. These effects of CIT treatment were attenuated in single-housed mice. Notably, although CIT treatment enhanced serotonin release in pair-housed mice, it did not significantly alter uptake rate. In summary, we report that chronic SSRI treatment facilitates serotonin release in a frequency-dependent manner, and this effect is blocked by social isolation. These findings suggest that the efficacy of SSRIs in treating depression and OCD may depend on ongoing stressors during treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2928-2937
Number of pages10
Issue number13
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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