Developing neural networks follow common trends such as expression of spontaneous, recurring activity patterns, and appearance of neuromodulation. How these processes integrate to yield mature, behaviorally relevant activity patterns is largely unknown. We examined the integration of serotonergic neuromodulation and its role in the functional organization of the accessible locomotor network in developing zebrafish at behavioral and cellular levels. Locally restricted populations of serotonergic neurons and their projections appeared in the hindbrain and spinal cord of larvae after hatching (approximately day 2). However, 5-HT affected the swimming pattern only from day 4 on, when sustained spontaneous swimming appeared. 5-HT and its agonist quipazine increased motor output by reducing intervals of inactivity, observed behaviorally (by high-speed video) and in recordings from spinal neurons during fictive swimming (by whole-cell current clamp). 5-HT and quipazine had little effect on the properties of the activity periods, such as the duration of swim episodes and swim frequency. Further, neuronal input resistance, rheobasic current, and resting potential were not affected significantly. The 5-HT antagonists methysergide and ketanserin decreased motor output by prolonging the periods of inactivity with little effect on the active swim episode or neuronal properties. Our results suggest that 5-HT neuromodulation is integrated early in development of the locomotor network to increase its output by reducing periods of inactivity with little effect on the activity periods, which in contrast are the main targets of 5-HT neuromodulation in neonatal and adult preparations.
Copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 57: 303-322, 2003