Serotonin: A local regulator in the mammary gland epithelium

Nelson D. Horseman, Robert J. Collier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is a very simple molecule that plays key roles in complex communication mechanisms within the animal body. In the mammary glands, serotonin biosynthesis and secretion are induced in response to dilation of the alveolar spaces. Since its discovery several years ago, mammary 5-HT has been demonstrated to perform two homeostatic functions. First, serotonin regulates lactation and initiates the transition into the earliest phases of involution. Second, serotonin is a local signal that induces parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP), which allows the mammary gland to drive the mobilization of calcium from the skeleton. These processes use different receptor types, 5-HT7 and 5-HT2, respectively. In this review, we provide synthetic perspectives on the fundamental processes of lactation homeostasis and the adaptation of calcium homeostasis for lactation. We analyze the role of the intrinsic serotonin system in the physiological regulation of the mammary glands. We also consider the importance of the mammary serotonin system in pathologies and therapies associated with lactation and breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-374
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Animal Biosciences
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • breast cancer
  • calcium
  • hypocalcemia
  • lactation
  • prolactin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • General Veterinary


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