Effects of monoamine oxidase A inhibition on barrel formation in the mouse somatosensory cortex: determination of a sensitive developmental period

J Comp Neurol. 1998 Apr 6;393(2):169-84. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19980406)393:2<169::aid-cne3>3.0.co;2-0.


Genetic inactivation of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) in C3H/HeJ mice causes a complete absence of barrels in the somatosensory cortex, and similar alterations are caused by pharmacological inhibition of MAOA in wild type mice. To determine when and how MAOA inhibition affects the development of the barrel field, the MAOA inhibitor clorgyline was administered to mice of the outbred strain OF1 for various time periods between embryonic day 15 (E15) and postnatal day 7 (P7), and the barrel fields were analyzed with cytochrome oxidase and Nissl stains in P10 and adult mice. High-pressure liquid chromatography measures of brain serotonin (5-HT) showed three- to eightfold increases during the periods of clorgyline administration. Perinatal mortality was increased and weight gain was slowed between P3 and P6. Clorgyline treatments from E15 to P7 or from P0 to P7 disrupted the formation of barrels in the anterior snout representation and in parts of the posteromedial barrel subfield (PMBSF). Treatments from P0 to P4 caused similar although less severe barrel field alterations. Clorgyline treatments only during embryonic life or starting on P4 caused no detectable abnormalities. In cases with barrel field alterations, a rostral-to-caudal gradient of changes was noted: Rostral barrels of the PMBSF were most frequently fused and displayed an increased size tangentially. Thus, MAOA inhibition resulting in increased brain levels of 5-HT affects barrel development during the entire first postnatal week, with a sensitive period between P0 and P4. The rostral-to-caudal gradient of changes in the barrel field parallels known developmental gradients in the sensory periphery and in the maturation thalamocortical afferents. The observed barrel fusions could correspond to a default in the initial segregation of thalamic fibers or to a continued, exuberant growth of these fibers that overrides the tangential domain that is normally devoted to individual whiskers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / chemistry
  • Axons / enzymology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Clorgyline / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / drug effects
  • Female
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / analysis
  • Mice / physiology*
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / embryology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Thalamus / chemistry
  • Thalamus / embryology
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Vibrissae / innervation


  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Serotonin
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Clorgyline