Levels of immunoreactivity for highly polysialylated neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM), NCAM, and tenascin-C (TN-C), were examined in the basal ganglia regions and hypothalamic nuclei of adult rats after serotonergic (5-HT) lesions induced by 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine injections in the dorsal and medial raphe nuclei. Decreases in the density of serotonin fibers were associated with no changes in NCAM and general decreases in PSA-NCAM staining, the time-course of changes being selective for each region. Taken that the confocal analysis indicated that serotonin neurons do not express PSA-NCAM and that similar decreases in PSA-NCAM staining were observed after inhibition of 5-HT synthesis induced by parachlorophenylalanine administration, these results suggest that 5-HT may reduce adhesion by acting on PSA-NCAM expression in its environment, and thus facilitate plasticity in adult brain. Two months after the neurotoxin lesions, a normalization of PSA-NCAM staining was associated with a partial restoration in 5-HT fiber density in the nucleus accumbens and the supraoptic nucleus, suggesting that PSA-NCAM may facilitate sprouting of 5-HT fibers. Since a similar normalization was also detected in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which remained deprived of serotonin fibers, negative factors are likely to be involved in regeneration processes. Indeed, increases in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) followed by increases in TN-C were observed in these areas, suggesting that the secretion of TN-C by astrocytes may have negative consequences on the sprouting of 5-HT fibers. Finally, the lack of changes in striatal PSA-NCAM or TN-C staining observed after selective lesions of the dopaminergic pathway induced by intranigral injections of 6-hydroxydopamine indicates that 5-HT has a selective and critical role in adult brain plasticity.