Pharmacobehavioral studies in experimental animals, and imaging studies in humans, indicate that serotonergic transmission in the amygdala plays a key role in emotional processing, especially for anxiety-related stimuli. The lateral and basolateral amygdaloid nuclei receive a dense serotonergic innervation in all species studied to date. We investigated interrelations between serotonergic afferents and neuropeptide Y (NPY)-producing neurons, which are a subpopulation of inhibitory interneurons in the rat lateral and basolateral nuclei with particularly strong anxiolytic properties. Dual light microscopic immunolabeling showed numerous appositions of serotonergic afferents on NPY-immunoreactive somata. Using electron microscopy, direct membrane appositions and synaptic contacts between serotonin-containing axon terminals and NPY-immunoreactive cellular profiles were unequivocally established. Double in situ hybridization documented that more than 50 %, and about 30-40 % of NPY mRNA-producing neurons, co-expressed inhibitory 5-HT1A and excitatory 5-HT2C mRNA receptor subtype mRNA, respectively, in both nuclei with no gender differences. Triple in situ hybridization showed that individual NPY mRNA-producing interneurons co-express both 5-HT1A and 5-HT2C mRNAs. Co-expression of NPY and 5-HT3 mRNA was not observed. The results demonstrate that serotonergic afferents provide substantial innervation of NPY-producing neurons in the rat lateral and basolateral amygdaloid nuclei. Studies of serotonin receptor subtype co-expression indicate a differential impact of the serotonergic innervation on this small, but important, population of anxiolytic interneurons, and provide the basis for future studies of the circuitry underlying serotonergic modulation of emotional stimulus processing in the amygdala.
- Serotonergic system