Distinct Neurochemical and Functional Properties of GAD67-containing 5-HT Neurons in the Rat Dorsal Raphe Nucleus

J Neurosci. 2012 Oct 10;32(41):14415-26. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5929-11.2012.


The serotonergic (5-HTergic) system arising from the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) is implicated in various physiological and behavioral processes, including stress responses. The DRN is comprised of several subnuclei, serving specific functions with distinct afferent and efferent connections. Furthermore, subsets of 5-HTergic neurons are known to coexpress other transmitters, including GABA, glutamate, or neuropeptides, thereby generating further heterogeneity. However, despite the growing evidence for functional variations among DRN subnuclei, relatively little is known about how they map onto neurochemical diversity of 5-HTergic neurons. In the present study, we characterized functional properties of GAD67-expressing 5-HTergic neurons (5-HT/GAD67 neurons) in the rat DRN, and compared with those of neurons expressing 5-HTergic molecules (5-HT neurons) or GAD67 alone. While 5-HT/GAD67 neurons were absent in the dorsomedial (DRD) or ventromedial (DRV) parts of the DRN, they were selectively distributed in the lateral wing of the DRN (DRL), constituting 12% of the total DRL neurons. They expressed plasmalemmal GABA transporter 1, but lacked vesicular inhibitory amino acid transporter. By using whole-cell patch-clamp recording, we found that 5-HT/GAD67 neurons had lower input resistance and firing frequency than 5-HT neurons. As revealed by c-Fos immunohistochemistry, neurons in the DRL, particularly 5-HT/GAD67 neurons, showed higher responsiveness to exposure to an open field arena than those in the DRD and DRV. By contrast, exposure to contextual fear conditioning stress showed no such regional differences. These findings indicate that 5-HT/GAD67 neurons constitute a unique neuronal population with distinctive neurochemical and electrophysiological properties and high responsiveness to innocuous stressor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electroencephalography
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / chemistry
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neurons / chemistry*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Raphe Nuclei / chemistry*
  • Raphe Nuclei / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Serotonin / biosynthesis
  • Serotonin / chemistry
  • Serotonin / physiology*


  • Serotonin
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 1