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March 2004 Issue

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Study Suggests Serotonin Linked to Mammary Gland Development

Published March 2004

The development of mammary glands is controlled primarily by endocrine hormones. A study led by Nelson Horseman, PhD, professor and interim chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at the UC Medical Center, shows that serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter) also plays a role in mammary gland development. Findings from this study appear in the February 10 issue of Developmental Cell in an article titled “Serotonin Regulates Mammary Gland Development via an Autocrine Paracrine Loop.”

“It was a complete surprise when we found that serotonin, a chemical best known for its involvement in mood regulation, plays an important role in controlling the secretion of milk in the mammary glands,” said Dr. Horseman.

Serotonin, along with other regulatory hormones such as dopamine and adrenaline, is classified as a biogenic monoamine. Until now, this molecule has not been associated with the development of mammary glands. Dr. Horseman’s group found that mammary glands stimulated by prolactin express genes necessary for the biosynthesis of serotonin.

Findings from this study may suggest that drugs that alter serotonin synthesis or activity could have effects on milk production, milk quality, or breast cancer.

Co-authors from UC include: Manabu Matsuda, PhD, former postdoctoral fellow; Tatsuhiko Imaoka, PhD, former graduate student; Archie J. Vomachka, PhD, visiting professor from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania; Gary A. Gudelsky, PhD, professor in the UC College of Pharmacy; Zhaoyuan Hou, PhD, former graduate student; Meenakshi Mistry, research associate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology; Jason P. Bailey, graduate student in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology; and Kathryn M. Nieport, research assistant in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology.

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