Serotonin transporter messenger RNA expression in neural crest-derived structures and sensory pathways of the developing rat embryo

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A growing body of evidence suggests that serotonin plays an important role in the early development of both neural and non-neural tissues from vertebrate and invertebrate species. Serotonin is removed from the extracellular space by the cocaine- and antidepressant-sensitive serotonin transporter, thereby limiting its action on receptors. In situ hybridization histochemistry was used to delineate serotonin transporter messenger RNA expression during rat embryonic development. Serotonin transporter messenger RNA was widely expressed beginning prior to organogenesis and throughout the second half of gestation. Strikingly, serotonin transporter messenger RNA was detected in neural crest cells, some of which respond to serotonin in vitro, and neural crest-derived tissues, such as autonomic ganglia, tooth primordia, adrenal medulla, chondrocytes and neuroepithelial cells, in the skin, heart, intestine and lung. Within the peripheral sensory pathways, two major cells types were serotonin transporter messenger RNA-positive: (i) sensory ganglionic neurons and (ii) neuroepithelial cells, which serve as targets for the outgrowing sensory neurons. Several sensory organs (cochlear and retinal ganglionic cells, taste buds, whisker and hair follicles) contained serotonin transporter messenger RNA by late gestation. The expression of serotonin transporter messenger RNA throughout the sensory pathways from central nervous system relay stations [Hansson S. R. et al. (1997) Neuroscience 83, 1185-1201; Lebrand C. et al. (1996) Neuron 17, 823-835] to sensory nerves and target organs as shown in this study suggests that serotonin may regulate peripheral synaptogenesis, and thereby influence later processing of sensory stimuli. If the early detection of serotonin transporter messenger RNA in skin and gastrointestinal and airway epithelia correlates with protein activity, it may permit establishment of a serotonin concentration gradient across epithelia, either from serotonin in the amniotic fluid or from neuronal enteric serotonin, as a developmental cue. Our results demonstrating serotonin transporter messenger RNA in the craniofacial and cardiac areas identify this gene product as the transporter most likely responsible for the previously identified accumulation of serotonin in skin and tooth germ [Lauder J. M. and Zimmerman E. F. (1988) J. craniofac. Genet. devl Biol. 8, 265-276], and the fluoxetine-sensitive effects on craniofacial [Lauder J. M. et al. (1988) Development 102, 709-720; Shuey D. L. et al. (1992) Teratology 46, 367-378; Shuey D. L. et al. (1993) Anat. Embryol., Berlin 187, 75-85] and cardiac [Kirby M. L. and Waldo K. L. (1995) Circulation Res. 77, 211-215; Yavarone M. S. et al. (1993) Teratology 47, 573-584] malformations. Serotonin transporter messenger RNA was detected in several neural crest cell lineages and may be useful as an early marker for the sensory lineage in particular. The distribution of serotonin transporter messenger RNA in early development supports the hypothesis that serotonin may play a role in neural crest cell migration and differentiation [Lauder J. M. (1993) Trends Neurosci. 16, 233- 240], and that the morphogenetic actions of serotonin may be regulated by transport. The striking pattern of serotonin transporter messenger RNA throughout developing sensory pathways suggests that serotonin may play a role in establishing patterns of connectivity critical to processing sensory stimuli. As a target for drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamine derivatives and antidepressants, expression of serotonin transporter during development may reflect critical periods of vulnerability for fetal drug exposure. The widespread distribution of serotonin transporter messenger RNA during ontogeny suggests a previously unappreciated role of serotonin in diverse physiological systems during embryonic development.


Externa organisationer
  • US National Institute of Mental Health

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Neurovetenskaper


Sidor (från-till)243-265
Antal sidor23
Utgåva nummer1
StatusPublished - 1999
Peer review utfördJa
Externt publiceradJa