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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 19;105(33):11981-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801329105. Epub 2008 Aug 11.

Enhanced contextual fear memory in central serotonin-deficient mice.

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Institute of Neuroscience and State Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China.


Central serotonin (5-HT) dysregulation contributes to the susceptibility for mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder, and learning and memory deficits. We report that the formation of hippocampus-dependent spatial memory is compromised, but the acquisition and retrieval of contextual fear memory are enhanced, in central 5-HT-deficient mice. Genetic deletion of serotonin in the brain was achieved by inactivating Lmx1b selectively in the raphe nuclei of the brainstem, resulting in a near-complete loss of 5-HT throughout the brain. These 5-HT-deficient mice exhibited no gross abnormality in brain structures and had normal locomotor activity. Spatial learning in the Morris water maze was unaffected, but the retrieval of spatial memory was impaired. In contrast, contextual fear learning and memory induced by foot-shock conditioning was markedly enhanced, but this enhancement could be prevented by intracerebroventricular administration of 5-HT. Foot shock impaired long-term potentiation and facilitated long-term depression in hippocampal slices in WT mice but had no effect in 5-HT-deficient mice. Furthermore, bath application of 5-HT in 5-HT-deficient mice restored foot shock-induced alterations of hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Thus, central 5-HT regulates hippocampus-dependent contextual fear memory, and 5-HT modulation of hippocampal synaptic plasticity may be the underlying mechanism. The enhanced fear memory in 5-HT-deficient mice supports the notion that 5-HT deficiency confers susceptibility to posttraumatic stress disorder in humans.

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