Low-frequency stimulation evokes serotonin release in the nucleus accumbens and induces long-term depression via production of endocannabinoid

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Mar;111(5):1046-55. doi: 10.1152/jn.00498.2013. Epub 2013 Dec 11.


The nucleus accumbens (NAc), a major component of the mesolimbic system, is involved in the mediation of reinforcing and addictive properties of many dependence-producing drugs. Glutamatergic synapses within the NAc can express plasticity, including a form of endocannabinoid (eCB)-long-term depression (LTD). Recent evidences demonstrate cross talk between eCB signaling pathways and those of other receptor systems, including serotonin (5-HT); the extensive colocalization of CB1 and 5-HT receptors within the NAc suggests the potential for interplay between them. In the present study, we found that 20-min low-frequency (4 Hz) stimulation (LFS-4Hz) of glutamatergic afferences in rat brain slices induces a novel form of eCB-LTD in the NAc core, which requires 5-HT2 and CB1 receptor activation and L-type voltage-gated Ca(2+) channel opening. Moreover, we found that exogenous 5-HT application (5 μM, 20 min) induces an analogous LTD (5-HT-LTD) at the same synapses, requiring the activation of the same receptors and the opening of the same Ca(2+) channels; LFS-4Hz-LTD and 5-HT-LTD were mutually occlusive. Present results suggest that LFS-4Hz induces the release of 5-HT, which acts at 5-HT2 postsynaptic receptors, increasing Ca(2+) influx through L-type voltage-gated channels and 2-arachidonoylglycerol production and release; the eCB travels retrogradely and binds to presynaptic CB1 receptors, causing a long-lasting decrease of glutamate release, resulting in LTD. These observations might be helpful to understand the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying drug addiction, major depression, and other psychiatric disorders characterized by dysfunction of 5-HT neurotransmission in the NAc.

Keywords: endocannabinoids; long-term depression; nucleus accumbens; serotonin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression*
  • Male
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT2 / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / pharmacology
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / pharmacology


  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT2
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Serotonin