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ACS Chem Neurosci. 2013 May 15;4(5):790-8. doi: 10.1021/cn400072f. Epub 2013 Apr 24.

Physiologically relevant changes in serotonin resolved by fast microdialysis.

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Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior and Hatos Center for Neuropharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California-Los Angeles, CA 99095, USA.


Online microdialysis is a sampling and detection method that enables continuous interrogation of extracellular molecules in freely moving subjects under behaviorally relevant conditions. A majority of recent publications using brain microdialysis in rodents report sample collection times of 20-30 min. These long sampling times are due, in part, to limitations in the detection sensitivity of high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). By optimizing separation and detection conditions, we decreased the retention time of serotonin to 2.5 min and the detection threshold to 0.8 fmol. Sampling times were consequently reduced from 20 to 3 min per sample for online detection of serotonin (and dopamine) in brain dialysates using a commercial HPLC system. We developed a strategy to collect and to analyze dialysate samples continuously from two animals in tandem using the same instrument. Improvements in temporal resolution enabled elucidation of rapid changes in extracellular serotonin levels associated with mild stress and circadian rhythms. These dynamics would be difficult or impossible to differentiate using conventional microdialysis sampling rates.

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