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Concept: Raphe nuclei


Here, we describe an RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq)-based approach that accurately detects even modest maternal or paternal allele expression biases at the tissue level, which we call noncanonical genomic imprinting effects. We profile imprinting in the arcuate nucleus (ARN) and dorsal raphe nucleus of the female mouse brain as well as skeletal muscle (mesodermal) and liver (endodermal). Our study uncovers hundreds of noncanonical autosomal and X-linked imprinting effects. Noncanonical imprinting is highly tissue-specific and enriched in the ARN, but rare in the liver. These effects are reproducible across different genetic backgrounds and associated with allele-specific chromatin. Using in situ hybridization for nascent RNAs, we discover that autosomal noncanonical imprinted genes with a tissue-level allele bias exhibit allele-specific expression effects in subpopulations of neurons in the brain in vivo. We define noncanonical imprinted genes that regulate monoamine signaling and determine that these effects influence the impact of inherited mutations on offspring behavior.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Neuroanatomy, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Brain, Raphe nuclei


The motivation to seek social contact may arise from either positive or negative emotional states, as social interaction can be rewarding and social isolation can be aversive. While ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons may mediate social reward, a cellular substrate for the negative affective state of loneliness has remained elusive. Here, we identify a functional role for DA neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), in which we observe synaptic changes following acute social isolation. DRN DA neurons show increased activity upon social contact following isolation, revealed by in vivo calcium imaging. Optogenetic activation of DRN DA neurons increases social preference but causes place avoidance. Furthermore, these neurons are necessary for promoting rebound sociability following an acute period of isolation. Finally, the degree to which these neurons modulate behavior is predicted by social rank, together supporting a role for DRN dopamine neurons in mediating a loneliness-like state. PAPERCLIP.

Concepts: Ventral tegmental area, Sociology, Motivation, Emotion, Dopamine, Social relation, Reward system, Raphe nuclei


Serotonin neurons located in the raphe nucleus of the hindbrain have crucial roles in regulating brain functions and have been implicated in various psychiatric disorders. Yet functional human serotonin neurons are not available for in vitro studies. Through manipulation of the WNT pathway, we demonstrate efficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to cells resembling central serotonin neurons, primarily those located in the rhombomeric segments 2-3 of the rostral raphe, which participate in high-order brain functions. The serotonin neurons express a series of molecules essential for serotonergic development, including tryptophan hydroxylase 2, exhibit typical electrophysiological properties and release serotonin in an activity-dependent manner. When treated with the FDA-approved drugs tramadol and escitalopram oxalate, they release or uptake serotonin in a dose- and time-dependent manner, suggesting the utility of these cells for the evaluation of drug candidates.

Concepts: Neuron, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Cerebellum, Serotonin, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Raphe nuclei


We conducted a meta-analysis on the available data from studies investigating SERTs in ecstasy users and polydrug using controls. From 7 studies we compared data from 157 ecstasy users and 148 controls across 14 brain regions. The main effect suggested ecstasy/MDMA related SERT reductions (SMD=0.52, 95% CIs [0.40, 0.65]; Z=8.36, p<.01, I(2)=89%). A significant effect of subgroups (X(2)=37.41, df=13, p<.01, I(2)=65.3%) suggested differential effects across brain ROIs. Ecstasy users showed significant SERT reductions in 11 out of the 14 regions, including every neocortical and limbic region analysed. Greatest effects were observed in the occipital cortex (SMD=1.09, 95% CIs [0.70, 1.48]). No group effects were observed in subcortical areas of the caudate, putamen and midbrain. Literature on Postsynaptic 5HT2A receptor imaging was synthesised with these results. We conclude that, in line with preclinical data, serotonin axons with the longest projections from the raphe nuclei appear to be most affected by ecstasy/MDMA use.

Concepts: Neuron, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Serotonin, Raphe nuclei


Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment, known also as ‘chemobrain’, is a medical complication of cancer treatment that is characterized by a general decline in cognition affecting visual and verbal memory, attention, complex problem solving skills, and motor function. It is estimated that one-third of patients who undergo chemotherapy treatment will experience cognitive impairment. Alterations in the release and uptake of dopamine and serotonin, central nervous system neurotransmitters that play important roles in cognition, could potentially contribute to impaired intellectual performance in those impacted by chemobrain. To investigate how chemotherapy treatment affects these systems, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) at carbon-fiber microelectrodes was used to measure dopamine and serotonin release and uptake in coronal brain slices containing the striatum and dorsal raphe nucleus, respectively. Measurements were taken from rats treated weekly with selected doses of carboplatin and from control rats treated with saline. Modeling the stimulated dopamine release plots revealed an impairment of dopamine release per stimulus pulse (80% of saline control at 5 mg/kg and 58% at 20 mg/kg) after four weeks of carboplatin treatment. Moreover, Vmax, the maximum uptake rate of dopamine, was also decreased (55% of saline control at 5 mg/kg and 57% at 20 mg/kg). Nevertheless, overall dopamine content, measured in striatal brain lysates by high performance liquid chromatography, and reserve pool dopamine, measured by FSCV after pharmacological manipulation, did not significantly change, suggesting that chemotherapy treatment selectively impairs the dopamine release and uptake processes. Similarly, serotonin release upon electrical stimulation was impaired (45% of saline control at 20 mg/kg). Measurements of spatial learning discrimination were taken throughout the treatment period and carboplatin was found to alter cognition. These studies support the need for additional neurochemical and behavioral analyses to identify the underlying mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced cognitive disorders.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Brain, Chemotherapy, Serotonin, Problem solving, Dopamine, Raphe nuclei


Serotonin (5-HT) is associated with mood and motivation but the function of endogenous 5-HT remains controversial. Here, we studied the impact of phasic optogenetic activation of 5-HT neurons in mice over time scales from seconds to weeks. We found that activating dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) 5-HT neurons induced a strong suppression of spontaneous locomotor behavior in the open field with rapid kinetics (onset ≤1 s). Inhibition of locomotion was independent of measures of anxiety or motor impairment and could be overcome by strong motivational drive. Repetitive place-contingent pairing of activation caused neither place preference nor aversion. However, repeated 15 min daily stimulation caused a persistent increase in spontaneous locomotion to emerge over three weeks. These results show that 5-HT transients have strong and opposing short and long-term effects on motor behavior that appear to arise from effects on the underlying factors that motivate actions.

Concepts: Neuron, Serotonin, Motivation, Human behavior, Raphe nuclei


Post-mortem and neuroimaging studies suggest that the serotonergic system, which originates from the brainstem raphe nuclei, is disrupted in Parkinson’s disease. This could contribute to the occurrence of non-motor symptoms and tremor, which are only partially explained by dopamine loss. However, the level of involvement of the serotonergic raphe nuclei in early Parkinson’s disease is still debated. (123)I-FP-CIT single photon emission computed tomography is a marker of dopamine and serotonin transporter availability. While (123)I-FP-CIT binds primarily to dopamine transporters in the striatum, its binding in the brainstem raphe nuclei reflects serotonin transporter availability. We interrogated baseline single photon emission computed tomography scans of subjects recruited by the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative to determine: (i) the integrity of the brainstem raphe nuclei in early Parkinson’s disease; and (ii) whether raphe serotonin transporter levels correlate with severity of tremor and symptoms of fatigue, depression, and sleep disturbance. Three hundred and forty-five patients with early drug-naïve Parkinson’s disease, 185 healthy controls, and 56 subjects with possible Parkinson’s disease without evidence of dopaminergic deficit were included. In the Parkinson’s disease cohort, 37 patients had a tremulous, 106 patients had a pure akinetic-rigid, and 202 had a mixed phenotype. Patients with Parkinson’s disease had significantly lower serotonin transporter availability in the brainstem raphe nuclei compared to controls (P < 0.01) and subjects without evidence of dopaminergic deficit (P < 0.05). However, only 13% of patients with Parkinson's disease individually had reduced signals. Raphe serotonin transporter availability over the entire Parkinson's disease cohort were associated with rest tremor amplitude (β = -0.106, P < 0.05), rest tremor constancy (β = -0.109, P < 0.05), and index of rest tremor severity (β = -0.104, P < 0.05). The tremulous Parkinson's disease subgroup had significantly lower raphe serotonin transporter availability but less severe striatal dopaminergic deficits compared to akinetic-rigid patients with no resting tremor (P < 0.05). In tremulous patients, raphe serotonin transporter availability was also associated with rest tremor constancy (β = -0.380, P < 0.05) and index of rest tremor severity (β = -0.322, P < 0.05). There was no association between raphe serotonin transporter availability and fatigue, depression, excessive daytime sleepiness, or rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder in early Parkinson's disease. We conclude that the raphe nuclei are affected in a subgroup of early drug-naïve Parkinson's disease patients and that reduced raphe serotonin transporter availability is associated with the severity of resting tremor but not non-motor symptoms.

Concepts: Parkinson's disease, Serotonin, Antipsychotic, Dopamine, Single photon emission computed tomography, Haloperidol, Tremor, Raphe nuclei


Serotonin (also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)) is a neurotransmitter that has an essential role in the regulation of emotion. However, the precise circuits have not yet been defined through which aversive states are orchestrated by 5-HT. Here we show that 5-HT from the dorsal raphe nucleus (5-HT(DRN)) enhances fear and anxiety and activates a subpopulation of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (CRF(BNST)) in mice. Specifically, 5-HT(DRN) projections to the BNST, via actions at 5-HT2C receptors (5-HT2CRs), engage a CRF(BNST) inhibitory microcircuit that silences anxiolytic BNST outputs to the ventral tegmental area and lateral hypothalamus. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this CRF(BNST) inhibitory circuit underlies aversive behaviour following acute exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This early aversive effect is mediated via the corticotrophin-releasing factor type 1 receptor (CRF1R, also known as CRHR1), given that CRF1R antagonism is sufficient to prevent acute SSRI-induced enhancements in aversive learning. These results reveal an essential 5-HT(DRN)→CRF(BNST) circuit governing fear and anxiety, and provide a potential mechanistic explanation for the clinical observation of early adverse events to SSRI treatment in some patients with anxiety disorders.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Serotonin, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Anxiety disorder, Dopamine, Social anxiety disorder, Raphe nuclei


Social behaviours in species as diverse as honey bees and humans promote group survival but often come at some cost to the individual. Although reinforcement of adaptive social interactions is ostensibly required for the evolutionary persistence of these behaviours, the neural mechanisms by which social reward is encoded by the brain are largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that in mice oxytocin acts as a social reinforcement signal within the nucleus accumbens core, where it elicits a presynaptically expressed long-term depression of excitatory synaptic transmission in medium spiny neurons. Although the nucleus accumbens receives oxytocin-receptor-containing inputs from several brain regions, genetic deletion of these receptors specifically from dorsal raphe nucleus, which provides serotonergic (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) innervation to the nucleus accumbens, abolishes the reinforcing properties of social interaction. Furthermore, oxytocin-induced synaptic plasticity requires activation of nucleus accumbens 5-HT1B receptors, the blockade of which prevents social reward. These results demonstrate that the rewarding properties of social interaction in mice require the coordinated activity of oxytocin and 5-HT in the nucleus accumbens, a mechanistic insight with implications for understanding the pathogenesis of social dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Ventral tegmental area, Neuroanatomy, Serotonin, Dopamine, Amphetamine, Raphe nuclei


Psychological stressors may cause affective disorders, such as depression and anxiety, by altering expressions of corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), serotonin (5-HT), and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in the brain. This study investigated the effects of essential oil from Asarum heterotropoides (EOAH) on depression-like behaviors and brain expressions of CRF, 5-HT, and TH in mice challenged with stress.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuron, Hypothalamus, Cerebellum, Serotonin, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Norepinephrine, Raphe nuclei