Functional interactions between dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine neurons: an in-vivo electrophysiological study in rats with monoaminergic lesions

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Anatomical studies have established the existence of reciprocal relationships between the main population of monoamine, serotonin (5-HT), norepinephrine (NE) and dopamine (DA) neurons in the brain. The present study was thus conducted to examine the firing activity of 5-HT and NE neurons in DA-depleted rats, as well as the firing activity of DA neurons in 5-HT- or NE-depleted rats. The selective lesion of DA neurons elicited by 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) decreased the spontaneous firing activity of dorsal raphe (DR) nucleus 5-HT neurons by 60%, thus revealing the excitatory effect of the DA input on these 5-HT neurons. In contrast, the selective lesion of 5-HT neurons produced by 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT) enhanced by 36% the firing activity of VTA DA neurons, thereby indicating an inhibitory effect of the 5-HT input on these DA neurons. With regard to the reciprocal interaction between DA and NE neurons, it was observed that the selective loss of DA neurons achieved by the intra-ventral tegmental area (VTA) injection of 6-OHDA increased the firing activity of a subset of locus coeruleus (LC) NE neurons by 47%. The selective loss of NE neurons in response to the intra-LC injection of 6-OHDA enhanced the firing activity of VTA DA neurons by 70%, demonstrating a net inhibitory role of the NE input on VTA DA neurons. These findings have important consequences for antidepressant treatments aimed at enhancing simultaneously 5-HT, NE and DA transmission. Indeed, based on the understanding of such interactions, it may be possible to develop strategies to improve the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs by preventing counter-productive negative feedback actions.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology