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J Neurosci. 2000 Jun 15;20(12):4646-56.

Abnormal phrenic motoneuron activity and morphology in neonatal monoamine oxidase A-deficient transgenic mice: possible role of a serotonin excess.

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Unité Propre de Recherche (UPR) 9011, Development and Pathology of Movement, Paris, France.


In rodent neonates, the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) modulates the activity of both the medullary respiratory rhythm generator and the cervical phrenic motoneurons. To determine whether 5-HT also contributes to the maturation of the respiratory network, experiments were conducted in vitro on the brainstem-spinal cord preparation of neonatal mice originating from the control strain (C3H) and the monoamine oxidase A-deficient strain, which has a brain perinatal 5-HT excess (Tg8). At birth, the Tg8 respiratory network is unable to generate a respiratory pattern as stable as that produced by the C3H network, and the modulation by 5-HT of the network activity present in C3H neonates is lacking in Tg8 neonates. In addition, the morphology of the phrenic motoneurons is altered in Tg8 neonates; the motoneuron dendritic tree loses the C3H bipolar aspect but exhibits an increased number of spines and varicosities. These abnormalities were prevented in Tg8 neonates by treating pregnant Tg8 dams with the 5-HT synthesis inhibitor p-chlorophenylalanine or a 5-HT(2A) receptor antagonist but were induced in wild-type neonates by treating C3H dams with a 5-HT(2A) receptor agonist. We conclude that 5-HT contributes, probably via 5-HT(2A) receptors, to the normal maturation of the respiratory network but alters it when present in excess. Disorders affecting 5-HT metabolism during gestation may therefore have deleterious effects on newborns.

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