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Neuroscience. 2000;95(4):1081-8.

Correlations between serotonin level and single-cell firing in the rat's nucleus raphe magnus.

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University of Illinois College of Medicine, Rockford 61107-1897, USA.


The relation between serotonin release and electrical activity was examined in the nucleus raphe magnus of rats anesthetized with pentobarbital. Serotonin levels were monitored through a carbon-fiber microelectrode by fast cyclic voltammetry (usually at 1 Hz). Single-cell firing was recorded through the same microelectrode, except during the voltammetry waveform and associated electrical artifact (totaling about 30 ms). Multi-barrel micropipettes incorporating the voltammetry electrode were used for iontophoresis of drugs. Cells were inhibited, excited or unaffected by noxious mechanical skin stimulation. These were respectively designated as off(M) cells, on(M) cells and neutral(M) cells, M denoting mechanical. During 3 min of pinching, serotonin slowly rose near seven of 14 on(M) cells and 26 of 46 off(M) cells; it fell near two off(M) cells; it was unchanged near all other cells, including six neutral(M) cells. On a finer spatiotemporal scale, near four of seven on(M) cells, 10 of 14 off(M) cells and 0 of four neutral(M) cells, average serotonin levels fell significantly within +/- 100 ms of spontaneous spikes. Lower serotonin may have caused the higher spike probability; the converse is theoretically unlikely, since delays between release and detection are estimated to exceed 100 ms. Increased serotonin and decreased firing were always seen following iontophoresis or intravenous injection (1 mg/kg) of the serotonin re-uptake inhibitor clomipramine (n = 7). Iontophoresis of +/- propranolol, whose serotonergic actions include antagonism and partial agonism at 5-HT1 receptors, also increased serotonin and decreased firing (n=4). Methiothepin (intravenous, 1 mg/kg), whose serotonergic actions include 5-HT1 and 5-HT2 antagonism, typically raised serotonin levels (four of five cells) and always blocked inhibition by clomipramine (n = 3). Iontophoresis of glutamate always lowered serotonin and increased firing (n = 4). Since serotonin levels and firing were usually inversely correlated, except near on(M) cells during pinch, we propose that serotonin is released from terminals of incoming nociceptive afferents. Prior neuroanatomical knowledge favors a midbrain origin for these afferents, while some of the drug findings suggest that their terminals possess inhibitory serotonergic autoreceptors, possibly of 5-HT1b subtype. The released serotonin could contribute to the inhibition of off(M) cells and excitation of on(M) cells by noxious stimulation, since inhibitory 5-HT1a receptors and excitatory 5-HT2 receptors, respectively, have previously been shown to dominate their serotonergic responses.

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