Cellular resilience: 5-HT neurons in Tph2−/− mice retain normal firing behavior despite the lack of brain 5-HT

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Abstract
Considerable evidence links dysfunction of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) transmission to neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders characterized by compromised "social" cognition and emotion regulation. It is well established that the brain 5-HT system is under autoregulatory control by its principal transmitter 5-HT via its effects on activity and expression of 5-HT system-related proteins. To examine whether 5-HT itself also has a crucial role in the acquisition and maintenance of characteristic rhythmic firing of 5-HT neurons, we compared their intrinsic electrophysiological properties in mice lacking brain 5-HT, i.e. tryptophan hydroxylase-2 null mice (Tph2(-/-)) and their littermates, Tph2(+/-) and Tph2(+/+), by using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in a brainstem slice preparation and single unit recording in anesthetized animals. We report that the active properties of dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) 5-HT neurons in vivo (firing rate magnitude and variability; the presence of spike doublets) and in vitro (firing in response to depolarizing current pulses; action potential shape) as well as the resting membrane potential remained essentially unchanged across Tph2 genotypes. However, there were subtle differences in subthreshold properties, most notably, an approximately 25% higher input conductance in Tph2(-/-) mice compared with Tph2(+/-) and Tph2(+/+) littermates (p