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Development. 1997 May;124(9):1745-55.

5-HT2B receptor-mediated serotonin morphogenetic functions in mouse cranial neural crest and myocardiac cells.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Université L. Pasteur de Strasbourg, CNRS, INSERM, Illkirch, France.


During embryogenesis, serotonin has been reported to be involved in craniofacial and cardiovascular morphogenesis. The detailed molecular mechanisms underlying these functions, however remain unknown. From mouse and human species, we have recently reported the cloning of 5-HT2B receptors which share signal transduction pathways with other 5-HT2 receptor subtypes (5-HT2A and 5-HT2C). In addition to phospholipase C stimulation, it appears that these three subtypes of receptor transduce a common serotonin-induced mitogenic activity, which could be important for cell differentiation and proliferation. We have first investigated the expression of 5-HT2 receptor mRNAs in the mouse embryo. Interestingly, a peak of 5-HT2B receptor mRNA expression was detected 8-9 days postcoitum, whereas there was only low level 5-HT2A and no 5-HT2C receptor mRNA expression at this stage. Expression of this receptor was confirmed by binding assays using a 5-HT2-specific ligand which revealed a peak of binding to membrane preparations from 9 days postcoitum embryos. In addition, whole mount in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry on similar stage embryos detected 5-HT2B expression in neural crest cells, heart myocardium and somites. The requirement for functional 5-HT2B receptors between 8 and 9 days postcoitum is supported by culture of embryos exposed to 5-HT2-specific ligands; 5-HT2B high-affinity antagonist such as ritanserin, induced morphological defects in the cephalic region, heart and neural tube. These antagonistic treatments interfere with cranial neural crest cell migration, induce their apoptosis, and are responsible for abnormal sarcomeric organisation of the subepicardial layer and for the absence of the trabecular cell layer in the ventricular myocardium. This report indicates for the first time that 5-HT2B receptors are actively mediating the action of serotonin on embryonic morphogenesis, probably by preventing the differentiation of cranial neural crest cells and myocardial precursor cells.

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