Serotonin transporter deficiency in rats contributes to impaired object memory

J.D. Olivier*, L.A.W. Jans, A. Blokland, N.J. Broers, J.R. Homberg, B.A. Ellenbroek, A.R. Cools

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Serotonin is well known for its role in affection, but less known for its role in cognition. The serotonin transporter (SERT) has an essential role in serotonergic neurotransmission as it determines the magnitude and duration of the serotonin signal in the synaptic cleft. There is evidence to suggest that homozygous SERT knockout rats (SERT(-/-)), as well as humans with the short SERT allele, show stronger cognitive effects than wild-type control rats (SERT(+/+)) and humans with the long SERT allele after acute tryptophan depletion. In rats, SERT genotype is known to affect brain serotonin levels, with SERT(-/-) rats having lower intracellular basal serotonin levels than wild-type rats in several brain areas. In the present study, it was investigated whether SERT genotype affects memory performance in an object recognition task with different inter-trial intervals. SERT(-/-), heterozygous SERT knockout (SERT(+/-)) and SERT(+/+) rats were tested in an object recognition test applying an inter-trial interval of 2, 4 and 8 h. SERT(-/-) and SERT(+/-) rats showed impaired object memory with an 8 h inter-trial interval, whereas SERT(+/+) rats showed intact object memory with this inter-trial interval. Although brain serotonin levels cannot fully explain the SERT genotype effect on object memory in rats, these results do indicate that serotonin is an important player in object memory in rats, and that lower intracellular serotonin levels lead to enhanced memory loss. Given its resemblance with the human SERT-linked polymorphic region and propensity to develop depression-like symptoms, our findings may contribute to further understanding of mechanisms underlying cognitive deficits in depression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-834
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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