Serotonin drives striatal synaptic plasticity in a sex-related manner

Federica Campanelli, Gioia Marino, Noemi Barsotti, Giuseppina Natale, Valeria Calabrese, Antonella Cardinale, Veronica Ghiglieri, Giacomo Maddaloni, Alessandro Usiello, Paolo Calabresi, Massimo Pasqualetti, Barbara Picconi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Plasticity at corticostriatal synapses is a key substrate for a variety of brain functions – including motor control, learning and reward processing – and is often disrupted in disease conditions. Despite intense research pointing toward a dynamic interplay between glutamate, dopamine (DA), and serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission, their precise circuit and synaptic mechanisms regulating their role in striatal plasticity are still unclear. Here, we analyze the role of serotonergic raphe-striatal innervation in the regulation of DA-dependent corticostriatal plasticity. Methods: Mice (males and females, 2–6 months of age) were housed in standard plexiglass cages at constant temperature (22 ± 1 °C) and maintained on a 12/12 h light/dark cycle with food and demineralized water ad libitum. In the present study, we used a knock-in mouse line in which the green fluorescent protein reporter gene (GFP) replaced the I Tph2 exon (Tph2GFP mice), allowing selective expression of GFP in the whole 5-HT system, highlighting both somata and neuritis of serotonergic neurons. Heterozygous, Tph2+/GFP, mice were intercrossed to obtain experimental cohorts, which included Wild-type (Tph2+/+), Heterozygous (Tph2+/GFP), and Mutant serotonin-depleted (Tph2GFP/GFP) animals. Results: Using male and female mice, carrying on different Tph2 gene dosages, we show that Tph2 gene modulation results in sex-specific corticostriatal abnormalities, encompassing the abnormal amplitude of spontaneous glutamatergic transmission and the loss of Long Term Potentiation (LTP) in Tph2GFP/GFP mice of both sexes, while this form of plasticity is normally expressed in control mice (Tph2+/+). Once LTP is induced, only the Tph2+/GFP female mice present a loss of synaptic depotentiation. Conclusion: We showed a relevant role of the interaction between dopaminergic and serotonergic systems in controlling striatal synaptic plasticity. Overall, our data unveil that 5-HT plays a primary role in regulating DA-dependent corticostriatal plasticity in a sex-related manner and propose altered 5-HT levels as a critical determinant of disease-associated plasticity defects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105448
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Dopamine
  • Functional recovery
  • Serotonin
  • Striatum
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Tph2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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