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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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


Publication details

DatePublished - 29 Dec 2009
Issue number4
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)1776-93
Original languageEnglish


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.

    Research areas

  • 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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