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J Neurophysiol. 2002 Aug;88(2):549-64.

Serotonergic control of cerebellar mossy fiber activity by modulation of signal transfer by rat pontine nuclei neurons.

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Abteilung Kognitive Neurologie, Neurologische Universitätsklinik Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 15, Germany.


Serotonergic modulation of precerebellar nuclei may be crucial for the function of the entire cerebellar system. To study the effects of serotonin (5-HT) on neurons located within the pontine nuclei (PN), the main source of cerebellar mossy fibers, we performed standard intracellular recordings from PN neurons in a slice preparation of the rat pontine brain stem. Application of 5 microM 5-HT significantly altered several intrinsic membrane properties of PN neurons. First, it depolarized the somatic membrane potential by 6.5 +/- 3.5 mV and increased the apparent input resistance from 49.5 +/- 14.6 to 62.7 +/- 21.1 MOmega. Second, 5-HT altered the I-V relationship of PN neurons: it decreased the inward rectification in hyperpolarizing direction, but increased it when depolarizing currents were applied. Third, it decreased the rheobase from 0.32 +/- 0.14 to 0.24 +/- 0.14 nA without affecting the firing threshold. Finally, the amplitude of medium-duration after hyperpolarizations was reduced from -14.9 +/- 2.0 to -12.3 +/- 2.4 mV. Together, these 5-HT effects on the intrinsic membrane properties result in an increase in excitability and instantaneous firing rate. In addition, application of 5 microM 5-HT also modulated postsynaptic potentials (PSPs) evoked by electric stimulations within the cerebral peduncle. The amplitude, maximal slope, and integral of these PSPs were reduced to 46.2 +/- 23.4%, 45.7 +/- 23.7%, and 61.4 +/- 28.4% of the control value, respectively. In contrast, we found no change in the decay and voltage dependence of PSPs. To test modulatory effects on short-term synaptic facilitation, we applied pairs of electrical stimuli at intervals between 10 and 1,000 ms. 5-HT selectively enhanced the paired-pulse facilitation for interstimulus-intervals >20 ms. The alteration of paired-pulse facilitation points to a presynaptic site of action for 5-HT effects on synaptic transmission. Pharmacological experiments suggested that pre- and postsynaptic effects of 5-HT were mediated by two different kinds of 5-HT receptors: changes in intrinsic membrane properties were blocked by the 5-HT(2) receptor antagonist cinanserin while the reduction of PSPs was prevented by the 5-HT(1) receptor antagonist cyanopindolol. In conclusion, 5-HT increases the excitability of PN neurons but decreases the synaptic transmission on them. The selective enhancement of synaptic facilitation may, however, allow high-frequency inputs to effectively drive PN neurons, thus the PN may act as a high-pass filter during periods of 5-HT release.

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