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Corticotropin-releasing factor increases in vitro firing rates of serotonergic neurons in the rat dorsal raphe nucleus: Evidence for activation of a topographically organized mesolimbocortical serotonergic system

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Colin Ingram


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In vivo studies suggest that the stress-related neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) modulates serotonergic neurotransmission. To investigate the underlying mechanisms for this interaction, the present study examined the effects of CRF in vitro on dorsal raphe neurons that displayed electrophysiological and pharmacological properties consistent with a serotonergic phenotype. In the presence of either 1 or 2 mm Ca(2+), perfusion of ovine CRF or rat/human CRF rapidly and reversibly increased firing rates of a subpopulation (19 of 70, 27%) of serotonergic neurons predominantly located in the ventral portion of the dorsal raphe nucleus. For a given responsive neuron, the excitatory effects of CRF were reproducible, and there was no tachyphylaxis. Excitatory effects were dose-dependent (over the range of 0.1-1.6 micrometer) and were completely absent after exposure to the competitive CRF receptor antagonists alpha-helical CRF(9-41) or rat/human [d-Phe(12), Nle(21, 38), alpha-Me-Leu(37)]-CRF(12-41). Both the proportion of responsive neurons and the magnitude of excitatory responses to CRF in the ventral portion of the caudal dorsal raphe nucleus were markedly potentiated in slices prepared from animals previously exposed to isolation and daily restraint stress for 5 d. Immunohistochemical staining of the recorded slices revealed close associations between CRF-immunoreactive varicose axons and tryptophan hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons in the area of the recordings, providing anatomical evidence for potential direct actions of CRF on serotonergic neurons. The electrophysiological properties and the distribution of responsive neurons within the dorsal raphe nucleus are consistent with the hypothesis that endogenous CRF activates a topographically organized mesolimbocortical serotonergic system.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lowry CA, Rodda JE, Lightman SL, Ingram CD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Neuroscience

Year: 2000

Volume: 20

Issue: 20

Pages: 7728-7736

ISSN (print): 0020-7454

ISSN (electronic): 1529-2401

Publisher: Society for Neuroscience


PubMed id: 11027235