Since its discovery by Erspamer in the 1930s and identification by Page in the 1950s, 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine; serotonin) has been an elusive candidate as a substance that plays a role in the disease of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. In both animal and human hypertension, arterial contraction to 5-HT is profoundly enhanced. Additionally, 5-HT is a vascular smooth muscle cell mitogen. Because both increased arterial contractility and smooth muscle growth contribute to the disease of hypertension, it is logical to believe that 5-HT is a potential cause of disease, and thus a foe. However, decades of research have produced conflicting results as to the potential role of 5-HT in hypertension. This review will discuss historical findings which both support and refute the involvement of 5-HT in hypertension, and pose some new questions that may reveal novel ways for 5-HT to modify vascular control of blood pressure.

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