Serotonergic activation of 5HT1A and 5HT2 receptors modulates sexually dimorphic communication signals in the weakly electric fishApteronotus leptorhynchus

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Abstract

Serotonin modulates agonistic and reproductive behavior across vertebrate species. 5HT1A and 5HT1B receptors mediate many serotonergic effects on social behavior, but other receptors, including 5HT2 receptors, may also contribute. We investigated serotonergic regulation of electrocommunication signals in the weakly electric fish Apteronotus leptorhynchus. During social interactions, these fish modulate their electric organ discharges (EODs) to produce signals known as chirps. Males chirp more than females and produce two chirp types. Males produce high-frequency chirps as courtship signals; whereas both sexes produce low-frequency chirps during same-sex interactions. Serotonergic innervation of the prepacemaker nucleus, which controls chirping, is more robust in females than males. Serotonin inhibits chirping and may contribute to sexual dimorphism and individual variation in chirping. We elicited chirps with EOD playbacks and pharmacologically manipulated serotonin receptors to determine which receptors regulated chirping. We also asked whether serotonin receptor activation generally modulated chirping or more specifically targeted particular chirp types. Agonists and antagonists of 5HT1B/1D receptors (CP-94253 and GR-125743) did not affect chirping. The 5HT1A receptor agonist 8OH-DPAT specifically increased production of high-frequency chirps. The 5HT2 receptor agonist DOI decreased chirping. Receptor antagonists (WAY-100635 and MDL-11939) opposed the effects of their corresponding agonists. These results suggest that serotonergic inhibition of chirping may be mediated by 5HT2 receptors, but that serotonergic activation of 5HT1A receptors specifically increases the production of high-frequency chirps. The enhancement of chirping by 5HT1A receptors may result from interactions with cortisol and/or arginine vasotocin, which similarly enhance chirping and are influenced by 5HT1A activity in other systems.

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