Role of serotonin in body weight, insulin secretion and glycaemic control

Teodora Georgescu , David Lyons , Lora Heisler* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Abstract: Obesity and type 2 diabetes are key healthcare challenges of the 21st century. Subsequent to its discovery in 1948, serotonin (5‐hydroxytryptamine; 5‐HT) has emerged as a principal modulator of energy homeostasis and body weight, prompting it to be a target of weight loss medications (eg, fenfluramine, d‐fenfluramine, fenfluramine‐phentermine and sibutramine). The potential risk of off‐target effects led to these medications being withdrawn from clinical use and spurred drug discovery into 5‐HT receptor selective ligands. The serotonin 2C receptor (5‐HT2CR) is the primary receptor through which 5‐HT impacts feeding and body weight and 5‐HT2CR agonist lorcaserin was released for obesity treatment in 2012. Obese patients with type 2 diabetes prescribed medications that produce weight loss commonly observe improvements in type 2 diabetes. However, recent research has provided compelling evidence that 5‐HT2CR agonists produce effects on blood glucose and insulin sensitivity independent of weight loss. As such, neuroactive 5‐HT2CR agonists are a potential new category of type 2 diabetes medications. 5‐HT is also expressed within pancreatic β cells, is co‐released with insulin and may have a role in modulating insulin secretion. This review highlights the latest advances in the function of 5‐HT in body weight, insulin release and glycaemic control.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12960
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number4
Early online date28 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

We acknowledge funding from Diabetes UK (18/0005884) and the BBSRC (BB/R01857X/1 and BBN017838/1).


  • 5- HT
  • serotonin
  • body weight
  • glycaemic control
  • insulin
  • obesity


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