Role of serotonergic dorsal raphe neurons in hypercapnia-induced arousals

Nat Commun. 2020 Jun 2;11(1):2769. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16518-9.


During obstructive sleep apnea, elevation of CO2 during apneas contributes to awakening and restoring airway patency. We previously found that glutamatergic neurons in the external lateral parabrachial nucleus (PBel) containing calcitonin gene related peptide (PBelCGRP neurons) are critical for causing arousal during hypercapnia. However, others found that genetic deletion of serotonin (5HT) neurons in the brainstem also prevented arousal from hypercapnia. To examine interactions between the two systems, we showed that dorsal raphe (DR) 5HT neurons selectively targeted the PBel. Either genetically directed deletion or acute optogenetic silencing of DRSert neurons dramatically increased the latency of mice to arouse during hypercapnia, as did silencing DRSert terminals in the PBel. This effect was mediated by 5HT2a receptors which are expressed by PBelCGRP neurons. Our results indicate that the serotonergic input from the DR to the PBel via 5HT2a receptors is critical for modulating the sensitivity of the PBelCGRP neurons that cause arousal to rising levels of blood CO2.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Brain Stem / metabolism
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dorsal Raphe Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Hypercapnia / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Optogenetics
  • Parabrachial Nucleus
  • Serotonergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / genetics
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics


  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Slc6a4 protein, mouse
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Serotonin
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide