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Neuroscience. 1999;91(2):567-77.

Serotonin hyperinnervation in the adult rat ventral mesencephalon following unilateral transection of the medial forebrain bundle. Correlation with reactive microglial and astroglial populations.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Bromatología y Toxicología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain.


We have previously studied changes in the serotoninergic and dopaminergic nigrostriatal systems following transection of the medial forebrain bundle and found a long-term axotomy-induced increase in the levels of serotonin and its main metabolite, 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid in substantia nigra [Venero et al. (1997) J. Neurochem. 68, 2458-2468]. In an attempt to find a rationale for this effect, we have performed an immunohistochemical study. Transection of the medial forebrain bundle of the rat interrupted most of the ascending serotoninergic pathways from the raphe nuclei as revealed by serotonin immunoreactivity. While serotonin immunostaining was almost absent in striatum, it doubled in the ventral mesencephalon at 21 days postlesion. This axotomy-induced increase was accompanied by an increased density of the serotonin nerve terminal network in the ipsilateral substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area. The increase in serotonin immunoreactivity was in line with the measured levels of serotonin and 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid in substantia nigra. In addition, the distribution pattern of glial fibrillary acidic protein-immunoreactive astrocytes and OX42-immunoreactive microglia correlated highly with the location of increased serotonin fibre density in the ventral mesencephalon, especially in ventral tegmental area and in the most medial part of substantia nigra. We suggest that a pruning effect may underly the axotomy-induced increase in serotonin immunoreactivity in the ventral mesencephalon, and further, that activated astroglia and microglia may play a role in directing serotoninergic axonal regeneration following axotomy.

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