Effects of GABA microinjection into dorsal raphe nucleus on behavior and activity of lateral habenular neurons in mice

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The dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) is a key site for 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) synthesis and release. DRN dysfunction has been implicated in several stress-related disorders, including depression and anxiety. The lateral habenular nucleus (LHb) has been shown to inhibit the activity of DRN 5-HT neurons, and thus the LHb-DRN pathway plays an important role in the pathogenesis of depression. Although it is known that the LHb also receives the projection from the 5-HT neuron in the DRN, whether 5-HT neurons in the DRN can influence activity of the LHb in vivo and whether this effect is related to the induced behavioral changes have not been investigated. In the current study, we determined how injecting γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) into the DRN to inhibit 5-HT neurons affected behavior and the changes in the activity of LHb neurons in mice. We found that GABA injection into the DRN induced depression-like behavior in mice, as indicated by increased immobility time, and decreased climbing time in the forced swimming test and the tail suspension test, decreased time spent in the center and total distance moved in the open field test. Using extracellular single unit recording, we showed that the firing rate of LHb neurons decreased after GABA microinjection into the DRN. Further, c-Fos expression in LHb neurons was inhibited. Together our results indicate that inhibition of DRN 5-HT neurons can cause decreased LHb activity and depression-like behavior in mice, however this depression-like behavior could be independent of the LHb activity. The observed decrease in LHb activity is probably due to the presence of a negative feedback loop between the DRN and the LHb, which may play a role in maintaining emotional homeostasis.HighlightsGABA injection into the DRN induced depression-like behavior in mice.GABA injection into DRN significantly decreased 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio in LHb of mice.GABA injected to DRN suppressed the firing rates and c-Fos expression of LHb neurons in mice.Behavioral changes induced by GABA injection may be related to reduced activity of DRN 5-HT neurons.There may be a feedback regulation between the LHb and the DRN in implementing behavioral homeostasis.

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