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PLoS One. 2015 Aug 20;10(8):e0136422. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136422. eCollection 2015.

Generation of a Tph2 Conditional Knockout Mouse Line for Time- and Tissue-Specific Depletion of Brain Serotonin.

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Department of Biology, Unit of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Pisa, S.S.12 Abetone e Brennero 4, 56127, Pisa, Italy.
Department of Biology, Unit of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Pisa, S.S.12 Abetone e Brennero 4, 56127, Pisa, Italy; Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems@UniTn, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Via Bettini 31, 38068, Rovereto (TN), Italy.


Serotonin has been gaining increasing attention during the last two decades due to the dual function of this monoamine as key regulator during critical developmental events and as neurotransmitter. Importantly, unbalanced serotonergic levels during critical temporal phases might contribute to the onset of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism. Despite increasing evidences from both animal models and human genetic studies have underpinned the importance of serotonin homeostasis maintenance during central nervous system development and adulthood, the precise role of this molecule in time-specific activities is only beginning to be elucidated. Serotonin synthesis is a 2-step process, the first step of which is mediated by the rate-limiting activity of Tph enzymes, belonging to the family of aromatic amino acid hydroxylases and existing in two isoforms, Tph1 and Tph2, responsible for the production of peripheral and brain serotonin, respectively. In the present study, we generated and validated a conditional knockout mouse line, Tph2flox/flox, in which brain serotonin can be effectively ablated with time specificity. We demonstrated that the Cre-mediated excision of the third exon of Tph2 gene results in the production of a Tph2null allele in which we observed the near-complete loss of brain serotonin, as well as the growth defects and perinatal lethality observed in serotonin conventional knockouts. We also revealed that in mice harbouring the Tph2null allele, but not in wild-types, two distinct Tph2 mRNA isoforms are present, namely Tph2Δ3 and Tph2Δ3Δ4, with the latter showing an in-frame deletion of amino acids 84-178 and coding a protein that could potentially retain non-negligible enzymatic activity. As we could not detect Tph1 expression in the raphe, we made the hypothesis that the Tph2Δ3Δ4 isoform can be at the origin of the residual, sub-threshold amount of serotonin detected in the brain of Tph2null/null mice. Finally, we set up a tamoxifen administration protocol that allows an efficient, time-specific inactivation of brain serotonin synthesis. On the whole, we generated a suitable genetic tool to investigate how serotonin depletion impacts on time-specific events during central nervous system development and adulthood life.

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