This review paper summarizes our previous contributions to the study of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) innervation of basal ganglia in human and nonhuman primates under normal conditions. We have visualized the 5-HT neuronal system in squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) and human postmortem materials with antibodies directed against either 5-HT, 5-HT transporter (SERT) or 5-HT synthesizing enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH). Confocal microscopy was used to compare the distribution of 5-HT and dopamine (DA; tyrosine hydroxylase-immunolabeled) axons in human, while the ultrastructural features of 5-HT axon terminals in monkey subthalamic nucleus were characterized at electron microscopic level. In monkeys and humans, midbrain raphe neurons emit axons that traverse the brainstem via the transtegmental system, ascend within the medial forebrain bundle and reach their targets by coursing along the major output pathways of the basal ganglia. These 5-HT axons arborize in virtually all basal ganglia components with the substantia nigra receiving the densest innervation and the striatum the most heterogeneous one. Although the striatum - the major basal ganglia input structure - appears to be a common termination site for many of 5-HT ascending axons, our results reveal that the widely distributed 5-HT neuronal system can also act directly upon neurons located within the two major output structures of the basal ganglia, namely the internal pallidum and the substantia nigra pars reticulata in monkeys and humans. This system also has a direct access to neurons of the DA nigrostriatal pathway, a finding that underlines the importance of the 5-HT/DA interactions in the physiopathology of basal ganglia.
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