Higher levels of aggression are observed in socially dominant toadfish treated with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine

M. Danielle McDonald, Alexander Gonzalez, Katherine A. Sloman

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The following study set out to test the hypothesis that acute treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine, would result in a rise in circulating 5-HT levels and consequently a decrease in territorial aggression in the Gulf toadfish, Opsanus beta. Size-matched pairs of toadfish were implanted intraperitoneally with the same dose of fluoxetine (0, 10 or 25 mu g g(-1)), After a social interaction between a pair of fish, circulating levels of serotonin (5-HT: 5-hydroxytryptamine) and cortisol were measured and relative mRNA expression of the 5-HT(1A) receptor in the toadfish brain was determined using quantitative (real-time) PCR (qPCR). Behavioral endpoints such as the number of aggressive acts and swimming activity were also quantified so that dominant and subordinate fish could be identified. Fluoxetine treatment resulted in an increase in circulating levels of 5-HT, regardless of social status. Circulating cortisol concentrations were unaffected by fluoxetine, but were significantly higher in subordinate individuals when compared to dominant fish. Toadfish brain 5-HT(1A) receptor mRNA expression was not affected by treatment or social status. Lastly and contrary to our predictions, fluoxetine treatment resulted in an increase in the number of aggressive acts made by dominant individuals, with no differences in the level of aggression or swimming activity of subordinate fish. This study is the first to describe elevated aggression in a teleost fish with elevated circulating levels of 5-HT.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-112
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Gulf toadfish
  • Opsanus beta
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Toxicants
  • Serotonin
  • Cortisol
  • Behavior
  • Prozac (TM)
  • Antidepressant
  • 5-HT(1A) receptor

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