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J Comp Neurol. 2004 May 10;472(4):496-511.

The 5-HT2A receptor is widely distributed in the rat spinal cord and mainly localized at the plasma membrane of postsynaptic neurons.

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  • 1Neurobiologie des Signaux Intercellulaires, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 7101, Universit√© Pierre et Marie Curie, 7 Quai Saint Bernard, 75252 Paris cedex 05, France.


Serotonin (5-HT) plays a major role at the spinal level by modulating most spinal functions through several receptor subtypes including the 5-HT2A receptor. To gain further insight into the cellular role of this receptor, we performed an immunocytochemical study of 5-HT2A receptors in the rat spinal cord, at light and electron microscope levels. The results showed that 5-HT2A receptors were widely distributed in the spinal cord at all segmental levels. Immunolabeling was particularly dense in lamina IX and in the dorsal horn lamina IIi. Immunoreactive cell bodies were numerous in lamina IX, where many but not all motoneurons were labeled, as shown by double labeling with choline acetyltransferase antibodies. Stained cell bodies were also observed in the gray matter. The study at the ultrastructural level focused on the lumbar dorsal horn (laminae I-II) and ventral horn (lamina IX). At both levels, 5-HT2A immunoreactivity was mainly postsynaptic on dendrites and cell bodies. However, a little presynaptic labeling was also observed in axon and axon terminals, some of them containing large granular vesicles attesting to their peptidergic nature. The main result of our study was the "nonsynaptic" plasma membrane localization of 5-HT2A receptors covering a large surface of cell bodies and dendrites, suggesting a paracrine form of action of serotonin. These observations are consistent with a double role (pre- and postsynaptic) for serotonin on these receptors on various cellular targets.

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