Serotonin Transporter Ala276 Mouse: Novel Model to Assess the Neurochemical and Behavioral Impact of Thr276 Phosphorylation In Vivo

Neurochem Res. 2021 Apr 8. doi: 10.1007/s11064-021-03299-w. Online ahead of print.


The serotonin (5-HT) transporter (SERT) is a key regulator of 5-HT signaling and is a major target for antidepressants and psychostimulants. Human SERT coding variants have been identified in subjects with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that impact transporter phosphorylation, cell surface trafficking and/or conformational dynamics. Prior to an initial description of a novel mouse line expressing the non-phosphorylatable SERT substitution Thr276Ala, we review efforts made to elucidate the structure and conformational dynamics of SERT with a focus on research implicating phosphorylation at Thr276 as a determinant of SERT conformational dynamics. Using the high-resolution structure of human SERT in inward- and outward-open conformations, we explore the conformation dependence of SERT Thr276 exposure, with results suggesting that phosphorylation is likely restricted to an inward-open conformation, consistent with prior biochemical studies. Assessment of genotypes from SERT/Ala276 heterozygous matings revealed a deviation from Mendelian expectations, with reduced numbers of Ala276 offspring, though no genotype differences were seen in growth or physical appearance. Similarly, no genotype differences were evident in midbrain or hippocampal 5-HT levels, midbrain and hippocampal SERT mRNA or midbrain protein levels, nor in midbrain synaptosomal 5-HT uptake kinetics. Behaviorally, SERT Ala276 homozygotes appeared normal in measures of anxiety and antidepressant-sensitive stress coping behavior. However, these mice displayed sex-dependent alterations in repetitive and social interactions, consistent with circuit-dependent requirements for Thr276 phosphorylation underlying these behaviors. Our findings indicate the utility of SERT Ala276 mice in evaluation of developmental, functional and behavioral consequences of regulatory SERT phosphorylation in vivo.

Keywords: PKG; Phosphorylation; Serotonin; Transgenic mouse; Transporter.