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J Craniofac Genet Dev Biol. 1988;8(3):265-76.

Sites of serotonin uptake in epithelia of the developing mouse palate, oral cavity, and face: possible role in morphogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University of North Carolina, School of Medicine, Chapel Hill 27599.


With the method of whole mouse embryo culture, together with immunocytochemistry with an antiserum to serotonin (5-HT), sites of 5-HT uptake were found to be transiently expressed in the epithelia of the developing palate, tongue, nasal septum, and maxillary and mandibular prominences during the period of active morphogenesis (embryonic days 12-14; or E12-14). These sites had the ability to take up 5-HT when added to the culture medium in the presence of the MAO inhibitor nialamide and an antioxiant, L-cysteine (NC), and could also be seen after exposure of embryos to the 5-HT precursor L-tryptophan (L-TRP) + NC. These sites were also visible after culturing embryos without any additives, which may have been due to the presence of L-TRP in one component of the culture medium (DMEM) or to 5-HT itself, which is present in relatively high amounts in fetal calf serum. At E12-13, the appearance of 5-HT immunoreactivity (IR) at these sites after treatment with 5-HT + NC was blocked by the 5-HT uptake inhibitor fluoxetine, providing further evidence that these are true sites of 5-HT uptake. However, fluoxetine did not completely block the appearance of these sites in E14 embryos after 5-HT + NC or L-TRP + NC although it was effective with NC alone. This finding could mean that at E14 5-HT uptake into these sites occurs by mechanisms not completely blocked by fluoxetine or that there is some limited capacity for 5-HT synthesis. Taken together with results from previous studies where 1) 5-HT has been reported to stimulate palatal shelf reorientation and palatal mesenchyme cell motility in vitro [Wee et al., J Embryol Exp Morphol 53:75-90, 1979; Zimmerman et al., J Craniofac Genet Dev Biol 3:371-385, 1983] and 2) long-term culturing of mouse embryos in the presence of 5-HT or fluoxetine has been shown to cause malformations of the craniofacial region (Lauder, Thomas, and Sadler, in preparation), the results of the present study suggest that 5-HT could act as a developmental signal in the palate, oral cavity, and face during the period of active morphogenesis.

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