Mechanisms of 5-HT1A receptor-mediated transmission in dorsal raphe serotonin neurons

J Physiol. 2016 Feb 15;594(4):953-65. doi: 10.1113/JP271716. Epub 2015 Dec 30.


Key points: In the dorsal raphe nucleus, it is known that serotonin release activates metabotropic 5-HT1A autoreceptors located on serotonin neurons that leads to an inhibition of firing through the activation of G-protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium channels. We found that in mouse brain slices evoked serotonin release produced a 5-HT1A receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic current (IPSC) that resulted in only a transient pause in firing. While spillover activation of receptors contributed to evoked IPSCs, serotonin reuptake transporters prevented pooling of serotonin in the extrasynaptic space from activating 5-HT1A -IPSCs. As a result, the decay of 5-HT1A -IPSCs was independent of the intensity of stimulation or the probability of transmitter release. These results indicate that evoked serotonin transmission in the dorsal raphe nucleus mediated by metabotropic 5-HT1A autoreceptors may occur via point-to-point synapses rather than by paracrine mechanisms.

Abstract: In the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), feedback activation by Gαi/o -coupled 5-HT1A autoreceptors reduces the excitability of serotoninergic neurons, which decreases serotonin release both locally within the DRN and in projection regions. Serotonin transmission within the DRN is thought to occur via transmitter spillover and paracrine activation of extrasynaptic receptors. Here, we tested the volume transmission hypothesis in mouse DRN brain slices by recording 5-HT1A receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (5-HT1A -IPSCs) generated by the activation of G-protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium channels (GIRKs). We found that in the DRN of ePET1-EYFP mice, which selectively express enhanced yellow fluorescent protein in serontonergic neurons, the local release of serotonin generated 5-HT1A -IPSCs in serotonin neurons that rose and fell within a second. The transient activation of 5-HT1A autoreceptors resulted in brief pauses in neuron firing that did not alter the overall firing rate. The duration of 5-HT1A -IPSCs was primarily shaped by receptor deactivation due to clearance via serotonin reuptake transporters. Slowing diffusion with dextran prolonged the rise and reduced the amplitude the IPSCs and the effects were potentiated when uptake was inhibited. By examining the decay kinetics of IPSCs, we found that while spillover may allow for the activation of extrasynaptic receptors, efficient uptake by serotonin reuptake transporters (SERTs) prevented the pooling of serotonin from prolonging the duration of transmission when multiple inputs were active. Together the results suggest that the activation of 5-HT1A receptors in the DRN results from the local release of serotonin rather than the extended diffusion throughout the extracellular space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Raphe Nuclei / cytology
  • Raphe Nuclei / metabolism*
  • Raphe Nuclei / physiology
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / metabolism*
  • Serotonergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Serotonergic Neurons / physiology
  • Serotonin / metabolism


  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A
  • Serotonin