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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 14;9(8):e104718. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104718. eCollection 2014.

Serotonin 5-HT3 receptor-mediated vomiting occurs via the activation of Ca2+/CaMKII-dependent ERK1/2 signaling in the least shrew (Cryptotis parva).

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Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Western University of Health Sciences, California, United States of America.


Stimulation of 5-HT3 receptors (5-HT3Rs) by 2-methylserotonin (2-Me-5-HT), a selective 5-HT3 receptor agonist, can induce vomiting. However, downstream signaling pathways for the induced emesis remain unknown. The 5-HT3R channel has high permeability to extracellular calcium (Ca(2+)) and upon stimulation allows increased Ca(2+) influx. We examined the contribution of Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IIα (Ca(2+)/CaMKIIα), interaction of 5-HT3R with calmodulin, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signaling to 2-Me-5-HT-induced emesis in the least shrew. Using fluo-4 AM dye, we found that 2-Me-5-HT augments intracellular Ca(2+) levels in brainstem slices and that the selective 5-HT3R antagonist palonosetron, can abolish the induced Ca(2+) signaling. Pre-treatment of shrews with either: i) amlodipine, an antagonist of L-type Ca(2+) channels present on the cell membrane; ii) dantrolene, an inhibitor of ryanodine receptors (RyRs) Ca2+-release channels located on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER); iii) a combination of their less-effective doses; or iv) inhibitors of CaMKII (KN93) and ERK1/2 (PD98059); dose-dependently suppressed emesis caused by 2-Me-5-HT. Administration of 2-Me-5-HT also significantly: i) enhanced the interaction of 5-HT3R with calmodulin in the brainstem as revealed by immunoprecipitation, as well as their colocalization in the area postrema (brainstem) and small intestine by immunohistochemistry; and ii) activated CaMKIIα in brainstem and in isolated enterochromaffin cells of the small intestine as shown by Western blot and immunocytochemistry. These effects were suppressed by palonosetron. 2-Me-5-HT also activated ERK1/2 in brainstem, which was abrogated by palonosetron, KN93, PD98059, amlodipine, dantrolene, or a combination of amlodipine plus dantrolene. However, blockade of ER inositol-1, 4, 5-triphosphate receptors by 2-APB, had no significant effect on the discussed behavioral and biochemical parameters. This study demonstrates that Ca(2+) mobilization via extracellular Ca(2+) influx through 5-HT3Rs/L-type Ca(2+) channels, and intracellular Ca(2+) release via RyRs on ER, initiate Ca(2+)-dependent sequential activation of CaMKIIα and ERK1/2, which contribute to the 5-HT3R-mediated, 2-Me-5-HT-evoked emesis.

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