Chemical neuroanatomy of the dorsal raphe nucleus and adjacent structures of the mouse brain

J Comp Neurol. 2010 Sep 1;518(17):3464-94. doi: 10.1002/cne.22407.


Serotonin neurons play a major role in many normal and pathological brain functions. In the rat these neurons have a varying number of cotransmitters, including neuropeptides. Here we studied, with histochemical techniques, the relation between serotonin, some other small-molecule transmitters, and a number of neuropeptides in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) and the adjacent ventral periaqueductal gray (vPAG) of mouse, an important question being to establish possible differences from rat. Even if similarly distributed, the serotonin neurons in mouse lacked the extensive coexpression of nitric oxide synthase and galanin seen in rat. Although partly overlapping in the vPAG, no evidence was obtained for the coexistence of serotonin with dopamine, substance P, cholecystokinin, enkephalin, somatostatin, neurotensin, dynorphin, thyrotropin-releasing hormone, or corticotropin-releasing hormone. However, some serotonin neurons expressed the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-synthesizing enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD). Work in other laboratories suggests that, as in rat, serotonin neurons in the mouse midline DRN express the vesicular glutamate transporter 3, presumably releasing glutamate. Our study also shows that many of the neuropeptides studied (substance P, galanin, neurotensin, dynorphin, and corticotropin-releasing factor) are present in nerve terminal networks of varying densities close to the serotonin neurons, and therefore may directly or indirectly influence these cells. The apparently low numbers of coexisting messengers in mouse serotonin neurons, compared to rat, indicate considerable species differences with regard to the chemical neuronatomy of the DRN. Thus, extrapolation of DRN physiology, and possibly pathology, from rat to mouse, and even human, should be made with caution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain* / anatomy & histology
  • Brain* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Neurons* / chemistry
  • Neurons* / cytology
  • Neurons* / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / genetics
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / genetics
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Raphe Nuclei* / anatomy & histology
  • Raphe Nuclei* / chemistry
  • Raphe Nuclei* / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / genetics
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Neuropeptides
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter