Activation of PPG neurons following acute stressors differentially involves hindbrain serotonin in male rats

Neuropharmacology. 2021 Apr 1:187:108477. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2021.108477. Epub 2021 Feb 10.


Within the hindbrain, serotonin (5-HT) functions as a modulator of the central glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) system. This interaction between 5-HT and GLP-1 is achieved via 5-HT2C and 5-HT3 receptors and is relevant for GLP-1-mediated feeding behavior. The central GLP-1 system is activated by various stressors, activates the hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical (HPA) axis, and contributes to stress-related behaviors. Whether 5-HT modulates GLP-1's role in the stress response in unknown. We hypothesized that the serotonergic modulation of GLP-1-producing neurons (i.e., PPG neurons) is stimuli-specific and that stressed-induced PPG activity is one of the modalities in which 5-HT plays a role. In this study, we investigated the roles of 5-HT2C and 5-HT3 receptors in mediating the activation of PPG neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) following exposure to three different acute stressors: lithium chloride (LiCl), noncontingent cocaine (Coc), and novel restraint stress (RES). Results showed that increased c-Fos expression in PPG neurons following LiCl and RES-but not Coc-is dependent on hindbrain 5-HT2C and 5-HT3 receptor signaling. Additionally, stressors that depend on 5-HT signaling to activate PPG neurons (i.e., LiCl and RES) increased c-Fos expression in 5-HT-expressing neurons within the caudal raphe (CR), specifically in the raphe magnus (RMg). Finally, we showed that RMg neurons innervate NTS PPG neurons and that some of these PPG neurons lie in close proximity to 5-HT axons, suggesting RMg 5-HT-expressing neurons are the source of 5-HT input responsible for engaging NTS PPG neurons. Together, these findings identify a direct RMg to NTS pathway responsible for the modulatory effect of 5-HT on the central GLP-1 system-specifically via activation of 5-HT2C and 5-HT3 receptors-in the facilitation of acute stress responses.

Keywords: 5-HT2C receptor; 5-HT3 receptor; Glucagon-like peptide-1; Raphe magnus; Serotonin; Stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism*
  • Lithium Chloride
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nucleus Raphe Magnus / metabolism
  • Proglucagon / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism*
  • Raphe Nuclei / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2C / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3 / metabolism*
  • Rhombencephalon / metabolism
  • Serotonergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Serotonin 5-HT2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Serotonin 5-HT3 Receptor Antagonists
  • Solitary Nucleus / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2C
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3
  • Serotonin 5-HT2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Serotonin 5-HT3 Receptor Antagonists
  • Serotonin
  • Proglucagon
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Lithium Chloride
  • Cocaine