In Vivo Excitation of GABA Interneurons in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex through 5-HT3 Receptors

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Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) controls pyramidal cell activity in prefrontal cortex (PFC) through various receptors, in particular, 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors. Here we report that the physiological stimulation of the raphe nuclei excites local, putatively GABAergic neurons in the prelimbic and cingulate areas of the rat PFC in vivo. These excitations had a latency of 36 ± 4 ms and a duration of 69 ± 9 ms and were blocked by the i.v. administration of the 5-HT3 receptor antagonists ondansetron and tropisetron. The latency and duration were shorter than those elicited through 5-HT2A receptors in pyramidal neurons of the same areas. Double in situ hybridization histochemistry showed the presence of GABAergic neurons expressing 5-HT3 receptor mRNA in PFC. These cells were more abundant in the cingulate, prelimbic and infralimbic areas, particularly in superficial layers. The percentages of GAD mRNA-positive neurons expressing 5-HT3 receptor mRNA in prelimbic cortex were 40, 18, 6 and 8% in layers I, II–III, V and VI, respectively, a distribution complementary to that of cells expressing 5-HT2A receptors. Overall, these results support an important role of 5-HT in the control of the excitability of apical dendrites of pyramidal neurons in the medial PFC through the activation of 5-HT3 receptors in GABAergic interneurons.

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