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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The neuromodulator serotonin (5-HT) has been implicated in a variety of functions that involve patience or impulse control. Many of these effects are consistent with a long-standing theory that 5-HT promotes behavioral inhibition, a motivational bias favoring passive over active behaviors. To further test this idea, we studied the impact of 5-HT in a probabilistic foraging task, in which mice must learn the statistics of the environment and infer when to leave a depleted foraging site for the next. Critically, mice were required to actively nose-poke in order to exploit a given site. We show that optogenetic activation of 5-HT neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus increases the willingness of mice to actively attempt to exploit a reward site before giving up. These results indicate that behavioral inhibition is not an adequate description of 5-HT function and suggest that a unified account must be based on a higher-order function.
Hunger, driven by negative energy balance, elicits the search for and consumption of food. While this response is in part mediated by neurons in the hypothalamus, the role of specific cell types in other brain regions is less well defined. Here, we show that neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus, expressing vesicular transporters for GABA or glutamate (hereafter, DRN(Vgat) and DRN(VGLUT3) neurons), are reciprocally activated by changes in energy balance and that modulating their activity has opposite effects on feeding-DRN(Vgat) neurons increase, whereas DRN(VGLUT3) neurons suppress, food intake. Furthermore, modulation of these neurons in obese (ob/ob) mice suppresses food intake and body weight and normalizes locomotor activity. Finally, using molecular profiling, we identify druggable targets in these neurons and show that local infusion of agonists for specific receptors on these neurons has potent effects on feeding. These data establish the DRN as an important node controlling energy balance. PAPERCLIP.