The Onset and Progression of Chronic Colitis Parallels Increased Mucosal Serotonin Release via Enterochromaffin Cell Hyperplasia and Downregulation of the Serotonin Reuptake Transporter

Rhian Stavely, Sarah Fraser, Shilpa Sharma, Ahmed A. Rahman, Vanesa Stojanovska, Samy Sakkal, Vasso Apostolopoulos, Paul Bertrand, Kulmira Nurgali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) has been linked with several inflammation-associated intestinal diseases, including ulcerative colitis (UC). The largest pool of 5-HT in the body is in enterochromaffin (EC) cells located throughout the intestinal tract. EC cells are mechanosensitive and detect noxious stimuli, inducing secretion of 5-HT, which plays an important role in enteric reflexes and immunomodulation. In this study, we evaluated intestinal 5-HT levels in the Winnie mouse model of spontaneous chronic colitis, which closely replicates UC. Methods Real-time electrochemical recordings of 5-HT oxidation currents were obtained from ex vivo preparations of jejunum, ileum, proximal, and distal colon from Winnie (5-25 weeks old) and age matched C57BL/6 mice. EC cells were examined by immunohistochemistry, and the gene expression of tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (5-HT synthesis) and the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT) were determined by quantitative Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR). Results Compression-evoked and basal 5-HT concentrations were elevated in the distal and proximal colon of Winnie mice. EC cell hyperplasia and downregulation of SERT on the transcriptional level were identified as mechanisms underlying increased levels of 5-HT. Increase in mucosal 5-HT release was observed at the onset of disease at 7-14 weeks, confirmed by disease activity scores. Furthermore, increases in 5-HT levels and progression of disease activity correlated linearly with age, but not sex. Conclusions Our findings in the Winnie mouse model of spontaneous chronic colitis demonstrate for the first time that the onset and progression of chronic UC-like intestinal inflammation is associated with increased 5-HT levels in the colonic mucosa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1034
Number of pages14
JournalInflammatory Bowel Diseases
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT
  • IBD
  • serotonin
  • ulcerative colitis
  • Winnie mouse model

Cite this