Cervical spinal cord injury leads to a disruption of bulbospinal innervation from medullary respiratory centers to phrenic motoneurons. Animal models utilizing cervical hemisection result in inhibition of ipsilateral phrenic nerve activity, leading to paralysis of the hemidiaphragm. We have previously demonstrated a role for serotonin (5-HT) as one potential modulator of respiratory recovery following cervical hemisection, a mechanism that likely occurs via 5-HT2A and/or 5-HT2C receptors. The present study was designed to specifically examine if 5-HT2A and/or 5-HT2C receptors are colocalized with phrenic motoneurons in both intact and spinal-hemisected rats. Adult female rats (250-350 g; n = 6 per group) received a left cervical (C2) hemisection and were injected with the fluorescent retrograde neuronal tracer Fluorogold into the left hemidiaphragm. Twenty-four hours later, animals were killed and spinal cords processed for in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Using (35)S-labeled cRNA probes, cervical spinal cords were probed for 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptor mRNA expression and double-labeled using an antibody to Fluorogold to detect phrenic motoneurons. Expression of both 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptor mRNA was detected in motoneurons of the cervical ventral horn. Despite positive expression of both 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptor mRNA-hybridization signal over phrenic motoneurons, only 5-HT2A silver grains achieved a signal-to-noise ratio representative of colocalization. 5-HT2A mRNA levels in identified phrenic motoneurons were not significantly altered following cervical hemisection compared to sham-operated controls. Selective colocalization of 5-HT2A receptor mRNA with phrenic motoneurons may have implications for recently observed 5-HT2A receptor-mediated regulation of respiratory activity and/or recovery in both intact and injury-compromised states.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.