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Auton Neurosci. 2009 May 11;147(1-2):48-55. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2009.01.004. Epub 2009 Feb 12.

5-HT2A receptors are concentrated in regions of the human infant medulla involved in respiratory and autonomic control.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The serotonergic (5-HT) system in the human medulla oblongata is well-recognized to play an important role in the regulation of respiratory and autonomic function. In this study, using both immunocytochemistry (n=5) and tissue section autoradiography with the radioligand (125)I-1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodo-phenyl)2-aminopropane (n=7), we examine the normative development and distribution of the 5-HT(2A) receptor in the human medulla during the last part of gestation and first postnatal year when dramatic changes are known to occur in respiratory and autonomic control, in part mediated by the 5-HT(2A) receptor. High 5-HT(2A) receptor binding was observed in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (preganglionic parasympathetic output) and hypoglossal nucleus (airway patency); intermediate binding was present in the nucleus of the solitary tract (visceral sensory input), gigantocellularis, intermediate reticular zone, and paragigantocellularis lateralis. Negligible binding was present in the raphé obscurus and arcuate nucleus. The pattern of 5-HT(2A) immunoreactivity paralleled that of binding density. By 15 gestational weeks, the relative distribution of the 5-HT(2A) receptor was similar to that in infancy. In all nuclei sampled, 5-HT(2A) receptor binding increased with age, with significant increases in the hypoglossal nucleus (p=0.027), principal inferior olive (p=0.044), and medial accessory olive (0.038). Thus, 5-HT(2A) receptors are concentrated in regions involved in autonomic and respiratory control in the human infant medulla, and their developmental profile changes over the first year of life in the hypoglossal nucleus critical to airway patency and the inferior olivary complex essential to cerebellar function.

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