What is the role of serotonin in the pathogenesis of migraine headache?

Updated: Oct 21, 2019
  • Author: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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The serotonin receptor (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) is believed to be the most important receptor in the headache pathway. Immunohistochemical studies have detected 5-hydroxytryptamine–1D (5-HT1D) receptors in trigeminal sensory neurons, including peripheral projections to the dura and within the trigeminal nucleus caudalis (TNC) and solitary tract, while 5-HT1B receptors are present on smooth muscle cells in meningeal vessels; however, both can be found in both tissues to some extent and even in coronary vessels.

All the currently available triptans (see Medication) are selective 5-HT1B/D full agonists. These agents may decrease headache by abolishing neuropeptide release in the periphery and blocking neurotransmission by acting on second-order neurons in the trigeminocervical complex.

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