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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Sep;102(3):1459-71. doi: 10.1152/jn.91160.2008. Epub 2009 Apr 15.

Facilitatory actions of serotonin type 3 receptors on GABAergic inhibitory synaptic transmission in the spinal superficial dorsal horn.

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Department of Physiology and Biological Information, Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine, Kitakobayashi 880, Mibu, Tochigi 321-0293, Japan.


Analgesic effects of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) type 3 (5-HT3) receptors may involve the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the spinal dorsal horn. However, the precise synaptic mechanisms for 5-HT3 receptor-mediated spinal analgesia are not clear. In this study, we investigated whether GABAergic neurons in the superficial dorsal horn (SDH) express functional 5-HT3 receptors and how these 5-HT3 receptors affect GABAergic inhibitory synaptic transmission in the SDH, by using slice preparations from adult glutamate decarboxylase 67-green fluorescent protein (GAD67-GFP) knock-in mice. Tight-seal whole cell recordings from GFP-positive and -negative neurons showed that 5-HT3 receptor-specific agonist 2-methyl-serotonin (2-Me-5-HT) induced inward currents in a substantial population of both GFP-positive and -negative neurons. Additionally, we confirmed expression of 5-HT3 receptors in both types of neurons by single-cell reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis. Further, GABAA receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs)-both those evoked by electrical stimulation and those occurring spontaneously in tetrodotoxin (i.e., miniature IPSCs [mIPSCs])-were recorded from GFP-negative neurons. 2-Me-5-HT increased the amplitude of the evoked IPSCs and the frequency of mIPSCs. The amplitude of mIPSCs was not affected by 2-Me-5-HT, suggesting that 5-HT augments GABAergic synaptic transmission via presynaptic mechanisms. The present observations indicate that 5-HT3 receptors are expressed on both somadendritic regions and presynaptic terminals of GABAergic neurons and regulate GABAA receptor-mediated inhibitory synaptic transmission in the SDH. Taken together, these results provide clues for the underlying mechanisms of the antinociceptive actions of 5-HT3 receptors in the spinal dorsal horn.

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