Serotonin 5-HT7 Receptor in the Ventral Hippocampus Modulates the Retrieval of Fear Memory and Stress-Induced Defecation

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Jun 1;19(6):pyv131. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyv131. Epub 2015 Dec 8.


Background: Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder or panic disorder are often troubled by inappropriate retrieval of fear memory. Moreover, these disorders are often comorbid with irritable bowel syndrome. The main aim of the present study is to elucidate the involvement of hippocampal serotonergic systems in fear memory retrieval and stress-induced defecation.

Methods and results: Microinjection of serotonin7 receptor antagonist, but not other serotonin receptor antagonists (serotonin 1A, 2A, 2C, 3, 4, and 6), into the rat ventral hippocampus significantly suppressed the expression of freezing behavior, an index of fear memory retrieval, and decreased the amount of feces, an index of stress-induced defecation, in the contextual fear conditioning test. Electrophysiological data indicated that the serotonin7 receptor agonist increased the frequency of action potentials in the ventral hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neuron via the activation of the hyperpolarization-activated nonselective cation current Ih. Moreover, in situ hybridization demonstrated that Htr7 mRNA was abundantly expressed in the CA3 compared with other subregions of the hippocampus and that these Htr7 mRNA-positive cells coexpressed hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channel 2 and 4 mRNAs, which are components of the Ih channel.

Conclusions: These results indicated that the released serotonin activates the serotonin7 receptor in the CA3 ventral hippocampus subregion, enhances the sensitivity to inputs via hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide 2 and 4 channels, and thereby facilitates fear memory retrieval. The serotonin7 receptor might be a target of drug development for the treatment of mental disorders involving fear memory and gastrointestinal problems.

Keywords: conditioned fear; defecation; hippocampus; serotonergic.