Carcinoid heart disease was one of the first valvular pathologies studied in molecular detail, and early research identified serotonin produced by oncogenic enterochromaffin cells as the likely culprit in causing changes in heart valve tissue. Researchers and physicians in the mid-1960s noted a connection between the use of several ergot-derived medications with structures similar to serotonin and the development of heart valve pathologies similar to those observed in carcinoid patients. The exact serotonergic target that mediated valvular pathogenesis remained a mystery for many years until similar cases were reported in patients using the popular diet drug Fen-Phen in the late 1990s. The Fen-Phen episode sparked renewed interest in serotonin-mediated valve disease, and studies led to the identification of the 5-HT(2B) receptor as the likely molecular target leading to heart valve tissue fibrosis. Subsequent studies have identified numerous other activators of the 5-HT(2B) receptor, and consequently, the use of many of these molecules has been linked to heart valve disease. Herein, we: review the molecular properties of the 5-HT(2B) receptor including factors that differentiate the 5-HT(2B) receptor from other 5-HT receptor subtypes, discuss the studies that led to the identification of the 5-HT(2B) receptor as the mediator of heart valve disease, present current efforts to identify potential valvulopathogens by screening for 5-HT(2B) receptor activity, and speculate on potential therapeutic benefits of 5-HT(2B) receptor targeting.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Inc.