The effects of lithium treatment on serotonin (5-HT) receptors in rat frontal cortex and hippocampus were investigated. Long-term lithium treatment strongly blocked 5-hydroxytryptophan-induced head twitches, while acute lithium administration by itself induced head twitches in rats, and ketanserin blocked this acute lithium action. Long-term administration of lithium decreased the number of not only 5-HT2 receptors in the frontal cortex but also 5-HT1 and 5-HT2 receptors in the hippocampus in rats. Decreases in 3H-5-HT binding to hippocampal 5-HT1 receptors and 3H-spiperone binding to frontal cortical 5-HT2 receptors, caused by chronic lithium treatment, were abolished by co-administration of p-chlorophenylalanine, and were enhanced by co-administration with methiothepin. The turnover of 5-HT in either frontal cortex or hippocampus was facilitated by lithium, and co-administered methiothepin enhanced this facilitation. These results suggest that long-term lithium treatment causes the down-regulation of postsynaptic 5-HT1 and 5-HT2 receptors, in part probably through its action on presynaptic nerve terminals.

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