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Comparative Study
, 314 (3), 558-86

Dual Serotoninergic Projections to Forebrain in the Rat: Morphologically Distinct 5-HT Axon Terminals Exhibit Differential Vulnerability to Neurotoxic Amphetamine Derivatives

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Comparative Study

Dual Serotoninergic Projections to Forebrain in the Rat: Morphologically Distinct 5-HT Axon Terminals Exhibit Differential Vulnerability to Neurotoxic Amphetamine Derivatives

L A Mamounas et al. J Comp Neurol.

Abstract

The cerebral cortex of the rat and other mammals is innervated by two morphologically distinct classes of serotoninergic (5-HT) axon terminals: fine axons with minute varicosities and beaded axons characterized by large, spherical varicosities. Fine and beaded 5-HT axons exhibit different regional and laminar distributions in forebrain and arise from separate brainstem nuclei, the dorsal and median raphe nuclei, respectively. The present neuroanatomic study, based on immunocytochemical methods to visualize 5-HT axons, demonstrates that the two axon types differ markedly in their vulnerability to the neurotoxic amphetamine derivatives, methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), and p-chloroamphetamine (PCA). While both drugs cause extensive degeneration of fine 5-HT axons throughout forebrain, beaded 5-HT axons are consistently spared. Fine 5-HT axons, which richly innervate most regions of dorsal forebrain in control rats, are rarely seen 2 weeks after treatment with MDA or PCA; this loss of fine axons reflects a marked denervation that persists for months after drug administration. The serotoninergic axon terminals remaining after MDA or PCA administration are almost entirely of the beaded type and appear to be unaffected by both drugs. Over a wide range of doses (2.5-40 mg/kg PCA) and survival times (2 weeks to 2 months), these spared 5-HT axons with large, spherical varicosities cannot be distinguished from the normal, beaded 5-HT axons in control rats by morphologic criteria. Moreover, beaded 5-HT axons exhibit a highly characteristic regional distribution which is the same in control as in MDA- and PCA-treated rats: these axons innervate specific zones or layers within parietal and occipital cortex, hippocampus, cingulate cortex, entorhinal cortex, and the olfactory bulb, among other forebrain areas, and they form a dense plexus lining the ventricular system. Taken together, the results of this study demonstrate that fine 5-HT axons are highly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of the amphetamine derivatives MDA and PCA, while beaded 5-HT axons are markedly resistant. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that there are two anatomically and functionally distinct sets of serotoninergic neurons projecting to forebrain. While both of these neuronal systems utilize 5-HT as a neurotransmitter, they differ in several features: 1) origin from separate nuclei in the brainstem (the dorsal and median raphe), 2) two types of morphologically distinct axon terminals, 3) markedly different distribution and innervation patterns in forebrain, and 4) dissimilar pharmacological properties. The results further suggest that psychotropic amphetamine derivatives have a selective action upon fine serotoninergic axons that arise from the dorsal raphe nucleus.

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