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J Neurosci. 2011 Jun 15;31(24):8948-57. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1692-11.2011.

Regulation of extrasynaptic 5-HT by serotonin reuptake transporter function in 5-HT-absorbing neurons underscores adaptation behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


Serotonin [5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)]-absorbing neurons use serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT) to uptake 5-HT from extracellular space but do not synthesize it. While 5-HT-absorbing neurons have been identified in diverse organisms from Caenorhabditis elegans to humans, their function has not been elucidated. Here, we show that SERT in 5-HT-absorbing neurons controls behavioral response to food deprivation in C. elegans. The AIM and RIH interneurons uptake 5-HT released from chemosensory neurons and secretory neurons. Genetic analyses suggest that 5-HT secreted by both synaptic vesicles and dense core vesicles diffuse readily to the extrasynaptic space adjacent to the AIM and RIH neurons. Loss of mod-5/SERT function blocks the 5-HT absorption. mod-5/SERT mutants have been shown to exhibit exaggerated locomotor response to food deprivation. We found that transgenic expression of MOD-5/SERT in the 5-HT-absorbing neurons fully corrected the exaggerated behavior. Experiments of cell-specific inhibition of synaptic transmission suggest that the synaptic release of 5-HT from the 5-HT-absorbing neurons is not required for this behavioral modulation. Our data point to the role of 5-HT-absorbing neurons as temporal-spatial regulators of extrasynaptic 5-HT. Regulation of extrasynaptic 5-HT levels by 5-HT-absorbing neurons may represent a fundamental mechanism of 5-HT homeostasis, integrating the activity of 5-HT-producing neurons with distant targets in the neural circuits, and could be relevant to some actions of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in humans.

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