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J Neurosci. 1999 Dec 1;19(23):10348-56.

The ETS domain factor Pet-1 is an early and precise marker of central serotonin neurons and interacts with a conserved element in serotonergic genes.

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Case Western Reserve University, Department of Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


Serotonin (5-HT) plays a crucial neuromodulatory role in numerous physiological and behavioral functions, and dysfunction of the serotonergic system has been implicated in several psychiatric disorders. Despite the widespread importance of the central serotonergic neurotransmitter system, little is known about the molecular mechanisms controlling the development of 5-HT neurons. We previously identified an ETS domain transcription factor, Pet-1, that is expressed in a small number of tissues, including the brain. Here, we show that expression of Pet-1 RNA in the brain is restricted to, and marks, the entire rostrocaudal extent of rat serotonergic hindbrain raphe nuclei. Remarkably, Pet-1 RNA colocalizes with tryptophan hydroxylase-positive neurons in raphe nuclei but not with their nonserotonergic neuron or non-neuronal neighbors. Pet-1 RNA is limited to two domains in the developing hindbrain, which precedes the appearance of 5-HT in each domain by approximately a half day. Conserved Pet-1 binding sites are present in or near the promoter regions of the human and mouse 5-HT1a receptor, serotonin transporter, tryptophan hydroxylase, and aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase genes whose expression is characteristic of the serotonergic neuron phenotype. These sites are capable of supporting transcriptional activation through interactions with the Pet-1 ETS domain and can function as enhancers. Together, our findings establish Pet-1 as an early and precise marker of 5-HT neurons and suggest that it functions specifically in the differentiation and maintenance of these neurons.

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