Serotonin transporter: A potential substrate in the biology of suicide

David C. Purselle, Charles B. Nemeroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Suicide is a serious public health problem in the US, yet its neurobiological underpinnings are poorly understood. Suicide is highly correlated with depressive symptoms, and considerable evidence suggests that depression is associated with a relative deficiency in serotonergic neurotransmission. Serotonergic circuits also mediate impulsivity, a trait obviously relevant to suicide. These findings, taken together, suggest that alterations in the serotonergic system might contribute to suicidal behavior, serving as an impetus for researchers to scrutinize the serotonin transporter (SERT) as a potential substrate for the pathophysiology of suicide. Using post-mortem brain tissue, platelets, and DNA from suicide completers and attempters have not provided unequivocal evidence for a pre-eminent role for the SERT in the pathophysiology of suicide. This paper provides a review of several studies that have evaluated the role of the SERT in the pathophysiology of suicide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-619
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Genetics
  • Neurobiology
  • Platelets
  • Post mortem
  • Serotonin transporter
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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