A developmental characterization of mesolimbocortical serotonergic gene expression changes following early immune challenge
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An immunogenic challenge during early postnatal development leads to long-term changes in behavioural and physiological measures reflecting enhanced emotionality and anxiety. Altered CNS serotonin (5-HT) signalling during the third postnatal week is thought to modify the developing neurocircuitry governing anxiety-like behaviour. Changes in 5-HT signalling during this time window may underlie increased emotionality reported in early immune challenge rodents. Here we examine both the spatial and temporal profile of 5-HT related gene expression, including 5HT1A, 2A, 2C receptors, the 5-HT transporter (5HTT), and tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) during early development (postnatal day [P]14, P17, P21, P28) in mice challenged with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) during the first postnatal week. Expression levels were measured using in situ hybridization in regions associated with mediating emotive behaviours: the dorsal raphe (DR), hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex (PFC). Increased TPH2 and 5HTT expression in the ventrolateral region of the DR of LPS-mice accompanied decreased expression of ventral DR 5HT1A and dorsal DR 5HTT. In the forebrain, 5HT1A and 2A receptors were increased, whereas 5HT2C receptors were decreased in the hippocampus. Decreased mRNA expression of 5HT2C was detected in the amygdala and PFC of LPS-treated pups; 5HT1A was increased in the PFC. The majority of these changes were restricted to P14-21. These transient changes in 5-HT expression coincide with the critical time window in which 5-HT disturbance leads to permanent modification of anxiety-related behaviours. This suggests that alterations in CNS 5-HT during development may underlie the enhanced emotionality associated with an early immune challenge.
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