- Zhou, F C; Sari, Y; Zhang, J K
- Serotonin transporter (5-HTT), a transmembrane protein, has been shown in adult brain to be distributed not only on synaptic terminals but to a great extent on axons as well. Here we report the ontogeny of 5-HTT and its relationship with serotonin (5-HT) neurons using established 5-HTT and 5-HT antibodies. Both 5-HTT- and 5-HT-immunostaining (-im) appear in 5-HT neurons at embryonic day 12 (E12) in rostral raphe nuclei (RRN). Soon after appearing, 5-HTT-im is highly expressed on axons, similar to adult expression. However, in contrast to adult, 5-HTT-im also outlines the soma-dendrites. Rich 5-HTT-im appears along the entire length of projecting axons, extending to the growth tip. In the next 2 days, intensive 5-HTT-im axons from RRN travel a course preferentially in the floor plate and later, the medial forebrain bundle trajectory. A group of new 5-HT-im neurons and 5-HTT-im axons appear at E13 in caudal raphe nuclei. At E16-18, taking the exact trajectory course of 5-HT axons, 5-HTT-im axons reach ganglionic eminence, olfactory bulb, and cortex and disperse into many brain regions in E18-20. No 5-HTT-im cell bodies were seen in nigral, locus ceruleus, or hypothalamus. However, the transient expression of 5-HTT on non-serotonergic system was seen in cortical and striatal neuroepithelia at E12 and sensory thalamic pathways at P0-P10. Prominent 5-HTT-im fibers in thalamocortical bundles project from sensory thalamic nuclei through reticular nucleus, internal capsule bundle and form barrels in somatosensory cortices. No 5-HTT-im was seen in glia-like cells using currently available antibody. These observations indicate that 5-HTT is: (a) associated preferentially with 5-HT neurons in brainstem, (b) temporally co-expressed with 5-HT in 5-HT neurons, (c) expressed on axons prior to synaptical sites at target neurons, which strongly indicates a volumic (extrasynaptic) transmission, (d) expressed in non-5-HT neurons within a specific window, which may affect the development of the systems "borrowing" the 5-HT. The early appearance of 5-HTT may also endow functionality as well as vulnerabilities of 5-HT, sensory thalamic, and cortical neurons to 5-HTT targeting drugs during pregnancy and after birth.
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