Specific Connectivity and Unique Molecular Identity of MET Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Expressing Serotonergic Neurons in the Caudal Dorsal Raphe Nuclei

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2017 May 17;8(5):1053-1064. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.7b00020. Epub 2017 May 1.


Molecular characterization of neurons across brain regions has revealed new taxonomies for understanding functional diversity even among classically defined neuronal populations. Neuronal diversity has become evident within the brain serotonin (5-HT) system, which is far more complex than previously appreciated. However, until now it has been difficult to define subpopulations of 5-HT neurons based on molecular phenotypes. We demonstrate that the MET receptor tyrosine kinase (MET) is specifically expressed in a subset of 5-HT neurons within the caudal part of the dorsal raphe nuclei (DRC) that is encompassed by the classic B6 serotonin cell group. Mapping from embryonic day 16 through adulthood reveals that MET is expressed almost exclusively in the DRC as a condensed, paired nucleus, with an additional sparse set of MET+ neurons scattered within the median raphe. Retrograde tracing experiments reveal that MET-expressing 5-HT neurons provide substantial serotonergic input to the ventricular/subventricular region that contains forebrain stem cells, but do not innervate the dorsal hippocampus or entorhinal cortex. Conditional anterograde tracing experiments show that 5-HT neurons in the DRC/B6 target additional forebrain structures such as the medial and lateral septum and the ventral hippocampus. Molecular neuroanatomical analysis identifies 14 genes that are enriched in DRC neurons, including 4 neurotransmitter/neuropeptide receptors and 2 potassium channels. These analyses will lead to future studies determining the specific roles that 5-HTMET+ neurons contribute to the broader set of functions regulated by the serotonergic system.

Keywords: B6; Serotonin; autism; dorsal raphe; neurodevelopment; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dorsal Raphe Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / metabolism*
  • Serotonergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Serotonin


  • Serotonin
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met