Bi-directional modulation of bed nucleus of stria terminalis neurons by 5-HT: molecular expression and functional properties of excitatory 5-HT receptor subtypes

J-D Guo, S E Hammack, R Hazra, L Levita, D G Rainnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Activation of neurons in the anterolateral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST(ALG)) plays an important role in mediating the behavioral response to stressful and anxiogenic stimuli. Application of 5-HT elicits complex postsynaptic responses in BNST(ALG) neurons, which includes (1) membrane hyperpolarization (5-HT(Hyp)), (2) hyperpolarization followed by depolarization (5-HT(Hyp-Dep)), (3) depolarization (5-HT(Dep)) or (4) no response (5-HT(NR)). We have shown that the inhibitory response is mediated by activation of postsynaptic 5-HT(1A) receptors. Here, we used a combination of in vitro whole-cell patch-clamp recording and single cell reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to determine the pharmacological properties and molecular profile of 5-HT receptor subtypes mediating the excitatory response to 5-HT in BNST(ALG) neurons. We show that the depolarizing component of both the 5-HT(Hyp/Dep) and the 5-HT(Dep) response was mediated by activation of 5-HT(2A), 5-HT(2C) and/or 5-HT(7) receptors. Single cell RT-PCR data revealed that 5-HT(7) receptors (46%) and 5-HT(1A) receptors (41%) are the most prevalent receptor subtypes expressed in BNST(ALG) neurons. Moreover, 5-HT receptor subtypes are differentially expressed in type I-III BNST(ALG) neurons. Hence, 5-HT(2C) receptors are almost exclusively expressed by type III neurons, whereas 5-HT(7) receptors are expressed by type I and II neurons, but not type III neurons. Conversely, 5-HT(2A) receptors are found predominantly in type II neurons. Finally, bi-directional modulation of individual neurons occurs only in type I and II neurons. Significantly the distribution of 5-HT receptor subtypes in BNST(ALG) neurons predicted the observed expression pattern of 5-HT responses determined pharmacologically. Together, these results suggest that 5-HT can differentially modulate the excitability of type I-III neurons, and further suggest that bi-directional modulation of BNST(ALG) neurons occurs primarily through an interplay between 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(7) receptors. Hence, modulation of 5-HT(7) receptor activity in the BNST(ALG) may offer a novel avenue for the design of anxiolytic medications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1776-93
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2009


  • Animals
  • Male
  • Neurons
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2C
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Septal Nuclei
  • Serotonin
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists

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