[11C]-DASB microPET imaging in the aged rat: Frontal and meso-thalamic increases in serotonin transporter binding

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Whereas molecular imaging studies in the aging human brain have predominantly demonstrated reductions in serotonin transporter (5-HTT) availability, the majority of the rodent studies, using autoradiographic methods, report increases in neural 5-HTT levels with age. To our knowledge, however, no previous rodent studies have assessed this topic in vivo, and therefore it remains unclear whether this discrepancy arises from methodological or inter-species differences. We performed an [11C]-DASB microPET study to evaluate the effects of aging on 5-HTT availability in the rat brain. To generate binding potential estimates, quantitative tracer kinetic modeling was applied using the simplified reference tissue model. A global increase in whole-brain [11C]-DASB binding potential was observed in the aged rats in comparison to the control group. More specifically, regional analyses revealed a highly significant increase in 5-HTT binding in the medial frontal cortex, and more modest increments in the midbrain/thalamus. Our results suggest that the frontal cortex represents a site of robust age-related alterations in the rat serotonergic system, and stress the need for further research assessing this topic in the human frontal cortex. Moreover, these findings suggest that the reported discrepancies between rodent and human data may reflect a divergence in the aging processes affecting human and rat serotonergic terminals.

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