A Na(+)- and Cl(-)-coupled serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5HT) transporter is expressed on human neuronal, platelet, placental, and pulmonary membranes. The brain 5HT transporter appears to be a principal site of action of therapeutic antidepressants and may mediate behavioral and/or toxic effects of cocaine and amphetamines. Oligonucleotides derived from consensus transporter sequences were used to identify human placental cDNAs highly related to the rat brain 5HT carrier. Transfection of one of these cDNAs into HeLa cells yields a high-affinity (Km = 463 nM), Na(+)- and Cl(-)-dependent 5HT transport activity which can be blocked by selective 5HT transport inhibitors, including paroxetine, fluoxetine, and imipramine, and which is antagonized by cocaine and amphetamine. Sequence analysis reveals a 630-amino acid open reading frame bearing 92% identity to the cloned rat brain 5HT transporter, with identical predicted topological features and conserved sites for posttranslational modifications. Unlike the rodent, where a single mRNA appears to encode 5HT transporters, multiple hybridizing RNAs are observed in human placenta and lung. Somatic cell hybrid and in situ hybridization studies are consistent, however, with a single gene encoding the human 5HT transporter, localized to chromosome 17q11.1-17q12.