5-HT1A receptor agonists enhance pyramidal cell firing in prefrontal cortex through a preferential action on GABA interneurons

Cereb Cortex. 2012 Jul;22(7):1487-97. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr220. Epub 2011 Sep 5.


5-HT(1A) receptors (5-HT1AR) are expressed by pyramidal and γ-aminobutyric acidergic (GABAergic) neurons in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Endogenous serotonin inhibits mPFC pyramidal neurons via 5-HT1AR while 5-HT1AR agonists, given systemically, paradoxically excite ventral tegmental area-projecting pyramidal neurons. This enhances mesocortical dopamine function, a process involved in the superior efficacy of atypical antipsychotic drugs on negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. Moreover, the 5-HT1AR-induced increase of pyramidal discharge may also contribute to the maintenance of activity patterns required for working memory, impaired in schizophrenia. Given the importance of these processes, we examined the neurobiological basis of pyramidal activation through 5-HT1AR using the prototypical agent 8-OH-DPAT. (±)8-OH-DPAT (7.5 μg/kg i.v.) increased discharge rate and c-fos expression in rat mPFC pyramidal neurons. Local blockade of GABA(A) inputs with gabazine (SR-95531) avoided (±)8-OH-DPAT-induced excitations of pyramidal neurons. Moreover, (±)8-OH-DPAT administration reduced the discharge rate of mPFC fast-spiking GABAergic interneurons at doses exciting pyramidal neurons. Activation of other 5-HT1AR subpopulations (raphe nuclei or hippocampus) does not appear to contribute to pyramidal excitations. Overall, the present data suggest a preferential action of (±)8-OH-DPAT on 5-HT1AR in GABAergic interneurons. This results in pyramidal disinhibition and subsequent downstream excitations of subcortical structures reciprocally connected with PFC, such as midbrain dopaminergic neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 8-Hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • 8-Hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin