Reversible Morphological Remodeling of Prefrontal and Hippocampal Serotonergic Fibers by Fluoxetine

March 21, 2024

Serena Nazzi, Marta Picchi, Sara Migliarini, Giacomo Maddaloni, Noemi Barsotti, Massimo Pasqualetti
Serotonin-releasing fibers depart from the raphe nuclei to profusely innervate the entire central nervous system, displaying in some brain regions high structural plasticity in response to genetically induced abrogation of serotonin synthesis. Chronic fluoxetine treatment used as a tool to model periphysiological, clinically relevant serotonin elevation is also able to cause structural rearrangements of the serotonergic fibers innervating the hippocampus. Whether this effect is limited to hippocampal-innervating fibers or extends to other populations of axons is not known. Here, we used confocal imaging and threedimensional (3-D) modeling analysis to expand our morphological investigation of fluoxetine-mediated effects on serotonergic circuitry. We found that chronic treatment with a behaviorally active dose of fluoxetine affects the morphology and reduces the density of serotonergic axons innervating the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region strongly implicated in the regulation of depressive- and anxiety-like behavior. Axons innervating the somatosensory cortex were unaffected, suggesting differential susceptibility to serotonin changes across cortical areas. Importantly, a 1-month washout period was sufficient to reverse morphological changes in both the medial prefrontal cortex and in the previously characterized hippocampus, as well as to normalize behavior, highlighting an intriguing relationship between axon density and an antidepressant-like effect. Overall, these results further demonstrate the bidirectional plasticity of defined serotonergic axons and provide additional insights into fluoxetine effects on the serotonergic system.
Journal: ACS Chemical Neuroscience