Expression of α(1)-adrenergic receptors in rat prefrontal cortex: cellular co-localization with 5-HT(2A) receptors

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Jun;16(5):1139-51. doi: 10.1017/S1461145712001083. Epub 2012 Nov 30.


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is involved in behavioural control and cognitive processes that are altered in schizophrenia. The brainstem monoaminergic systems control PFC function, yet the cells/networks involved are not fully known. Serotonin (5-HT) and norepinephrine (NE) increase PFC neuronal activity through the activation of α(1)-adrenergic receptors (α(1)ARs) and 5-HT(2A) receptors (5-HT(2A)Rs), respectively. Neurochemical and behavioural interactions between these receptors have been reported. Further, classical and atypical antipsychotic drugs share nm in vitro affinity for α(1)ARs while having preferential affinity for D(2) and 5-HT(2A)Rs, respectively. Using double in situ hybridization we examined the cellular expression of α(1)ARs in pyramidal (vGluT1-positive) and GABAergic (GAD(65/67)-positive) neurons in rat PFC and their co-localization with 5-HT(2A)Rs. α(1)ARs are expressed by a high proportion of pyramidal (59-85%) and GABAergic (52-79%) neurons. The expression in pyramidal neurons exhibited a dorsoventral gradient, with a lower percentage of α(1)AR-positive neurons in infralimbic cortex compared to anterior cingulate and prelimbic cortex. The expression of α(1A), α(1B) and α(1D) adrenergic receptors was segregated in different layers and subdivisions. In all them there is a high co-expression with 5-HT(2A)Rs (∼80%). These observations indicate that NE controls the activity of most PFC pyramidal neurons via α(1)ARs, either directly or indirectly, via GABAergic interneurons. Antipsychotic drugs can thus modulate the activity of PFC via α(1)AR blockade. The high co-expression with 5-HT(2A)Rs indicates a convergence of excitatory serotonergic and noradrenergic inputs onto the same neuronal populations. Moreover, atypical antipsychotics may exert a more powerful control of PFC function through the simultaneous blockade of α(1)ARs and 5-HT(2A)Rs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / metabolism
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1 / metabolism*


  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • Norepinephrine