The role of the serotonergic system in atropine's anti-myopic effects

Kate Thomson, Cindy Karouta, Daniel Weber, Nichola Hoffmann, Ian G. Morgan, Tamsin Kelly, Regan Ashby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The muscarinic cholinergic antagonist atropine is the most widely used pharmacological treatment for the visual disorder myopia (short-sightedness), the leading cause of low-vision worldwide. This study sought to better define the mechanism by which atropine inhibits myopic growth. Although classified as a muscarinic-cholinergic antagonist, atropine has been found to bind and modulate the activity of several non-cholinergic systems (e.g., serotonin). Thus, this study investigated whether the serotonergic system could underly atropine's anti-myopic effects. Using a chick model of myopia, we report that atropine's growth-inhibitory effects can be attenuated by pharmacological stimulation of the serotonin system. This may suggest that atropine can slow the development of myopia through inhibiting serotonergic receptor activity. We also observed that pharmacological antagonism of serotonergic receptors inhibits the development of experimental myopia in a dose-dependent manner, further demonstrating that modulation of serotonergic receptor activity can alter ocular growth rates. Finally, we found that neither experimental myopia, nor atropine treatment, induced a significant change in retinal serotonergic output (i.e., synthesis, transport, release and catabolism). This may suggest that, although myopic growth can be inhibited through modulation of serotonergic receptor activity (by atropine or serotonergic antagonists), this does not require a change in serotonin levels. These findings regarding a serotonergic mechanism for atropine may have significant ramifications for the treatment of human myopia. This includes assessing the use of atropine in patients who are also undergoing treatment to upregulate serotonergic signaling (e.g., serotonergic anti-depressants).

Original languageEnglish
Article number115542
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBiomedicine and Pharmacotherapy
Volume167
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Sept 2023

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