Serotoni, a hormone that helps to regulate mood, emotion and sleep in the brain, may also have anti-diabetic properties, according to new research.
The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, were based on a mouse model in which the expression of a serotonin receptor called 5-hydroxytryptamine 2C was blocked throughout the entire body. With no functioning receptors, the mice were shown to develop insulin resistance in their livers .
Previous studies had shown that these receptors in the brain were implicated in the regulation of glucose metabolism and energy balance throughout the body. However, when they were activated by serotoni, the receptors were seen to suppress appetite .
To explore this, the researchers engineered a new group of mice where the same serotonin receptor was blocked everywhere except within a group of brain cells called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, which are known to play a crucial role in suppressing appetite and inducing weight loss . When the serotonin receptor was reactivated only in the POMC neurons, the mice stopped showing insulin resistance in the liver .
Joel Elmquist, senior author of the study, said “We describe a circuit in the brain that may explain the anti-diabetic actions of serotonin-receptor signalling. This discovery tells us that drugs that affect serotonin action can have anti-diabetic actions independent of body weight and feeding.”

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