Peripheral microvascular serotoninergic signaling is dysregulated in young adults with major depressive disorder

Jody L. Greaney, Gabrielle A. Dillon, Erika F.H. Saunders, Lacy M. Alexander

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10 Scopus citations


Dysfunction of the brain serotonergic system is implicated in the pathogenesis of major depressive disorder (MDD). Serotonin is also a vasoactive signaling molecule, the effects of which are modulated by both nitric oxide (NO) and the serotonin transporter [the primary target of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)]. Despite its role in the neurobiology of depression, serotoninergic signaling mechanisms in the microvasculature of adults with MDD are unknown. We hypothesized that 1) cutaneous microvascular responsiveness to serotonin would be attenuated in MDD and mediated by reductions in both 2) NO-dependent and 3) serotonin reuptake-dependent mechanisms. In 12 adults with MDD (nonmedicated) and 12 nondepressed adults, red cell flux (laser-Doppler flowmetry) was measured during graded intradermal microdialysis perfusion of 1) serotonin (10-10 to 10-1 mol/L) alone and in combination with a nonselective NO synthase inhibitor NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (l-NAME; 15 mmol/L) and the SSRI paroxetine (10 μmol/L); and 2) paroxetine (n = 6; 10-9 to 10-2 M) alone and in combination with l-NAME. Serotonin-induced vasodilation was preserved in MDD. The NO-dependent component of serotonin-induced vasodilation was not different between groups. Paroxetine augmented vasodilatory responsiveness to serotonin via NO-dependent mechanisms in both groups; however, the magnitude was blunted in MDD. The NO contribution to direct paroxetine-induced vasodilation was also reduced in adults with MDD. Collectively, these preliminary data suggest that cutaneous microvascular serotoninergic signaling is dysregulated in adults with MDD and mediated by NO-dependent and serotonin reuptake-dependent mechanisms, providing initial mechanistic insight to the purported vasculoprotective effect of chronic SSRI treatment.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Cutaneous microvascular vasodilatory responsiveness to serotonin was preserved in adults with major depressive disorder (MDD). However, the contribution of serotonin reuptake-dependent mechanisms to serotonin-induced dilation was reduced in MDD. Direct perfusion of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) paroxetine elicited vasodilation that is partially mediated by nitric oxide (NO)-dependent mechanisms, but these responses were blunted in MDD, reflective of a diminished contribution of NO to the direct effects of a SSRI on the cutaneous microvasculature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-107
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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