Retinoids influence cellular processes such as differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis via retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and retinoid X receptor (RXR), and have therapeutic applications in several cancers and dermatologic diseases. Recent reports indicate that depression occasionally occurs in patients using the acne drug Accutane, the active component of which is 13-cis-retinoic acid (13-cis-RA). Although impairment of serotonin (5-HT)-expressing neurons, including morphologic changes, is thought to be associated with depressive symptoms, the effects of 13-cis-RA on 5-HT neurons have not been examined. The present study demonstrated that 13-cis-RA alters the morphology of 5-HT neurons in cultured rat midbrain slices. The 13-cis-RA-induced changes were partially blocked by RXR and RAR antagonists. Furthermore, cotreatment with RAR and RXR agonists altered the morphology of 5-HT neurons to a greater extent than the individual application of each agonist. The morphologic changes were completely blocked by RXR antagonist, whereas RAR antagonist partially blocked the effects. These results suggest that 13-cis-RA exerts its action on slice-cultured 5-HT neurons, at least in part, through specific retinoid receptors. Moreover, RXR has a greater influence on the morphology of 5-HT neurons than RAR. The receptor-mediated actions of 13-cis-RA presented here may provide a clue for further research on depression associated with the use of 13-cis-RA.