• striatum;
  • receptor coupling;
  • serotonin


Dysfunction within the striatal direct and indirect projecting systems arises after 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA)-induced dopamine depletion, highlighting the central regulatory function of dopamine in motor systems. However, the striatal 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) innervation remains intact after 6-OHDA lesions, suggesting that the 5-HT system may contribute to the lesion-induced dysfunction, or alternatively, it may adapt and compensate for the dopamine deficit. Neonatal 6-OHDA lesions actually give rise to a 5-HT axonal hyperinnervation within the dorsal striatum, further reinforcing the idea that the 5-HT system plays a central role in striatal function after dopamine depletion. Here we show that neonatal but not adult 6-OHDA lesions result in a novel coupling of 5-HT2 receptors to the ERK1/2/MAP Kinase pathway, a signaling cascade known to regulate neuronal plasticity. Chloroamphetamine-induced 5-HT release or direct stimulation of striatal 5-HT2 receptors via the 5-HT2 agonist DOI, produced robust ERK1/2 phosphorylation throughout the dorsal striatum of neonatal lesioned animals, a response not observed within the intact striatum. Pretreatment with the select 5-HT2 receptor antagonist Ketanserin blocked DOI-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation. This drug-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation was subsequently shown to be restricted to direct pathway striatal neurons. Our data show that adaptation of direct pathway neurons after neonatal 6-OHDA lesions involves coupling of 5-HT2 receptors to the ERK1/2/MAP Kinase cascade, a pathway not typically active in these neurons. Because dopamine-mediated signaling is redundant after 6-OHDA lesions, 5-HT-mediated stimulation of the ERK1/2/MAP Kinase pathway may provide an alternative signaling route allowing the regulation of neuronal gene expression and neuronal plasticity in the absence of dopamine. J. Comp. Neurol. 498:415–430, 2006. Published 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.