p-Chlorophenylalanine Changes Serotonin Transporter mRNA Levels and Expression of the Gene Product


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. C. Bendotti at Neuropharmacology Laboratory, Mario Negri Institute, via Eritrea 62, 20157 Milan, Italy.


Abstract: After a single intraperitoneal injection of the irreversible tryptophan hydroxylase inhibitor p-chlorophenylalanine (PCPA; 300 mg/kg), there was a rapid down-regulation of serotonin (5-HT) transporter mRNA levels in cell bodies. This change was significant at 1 and 2 days after PCPA administration within the ventromedial but not the dorsomedial portion of the dorsal raphe nucleus. Seven days after PCPA treatment, 5-HT transporter mRNA levels were significantly elevated compared with controls in both regions of the dorsal raphe nucleus. PCPA administration produced no change in the [3H]-citalopram binding and synaptosomal [3H]5-HT uptake in terminal regions at 2 and 7 days after treatment but significantly reduced both these parameters by ∼20% in the hippocampus and in cerebral cortex 14 days after PCPA administration. The striatum showed a lower sensitivity to this effect. No significant changes were observed in the levels of [3H]citalopram binding to 5-HT cell bodies in the dorsal raphe nucleus. In the same animals used for 5-HT transporter mRNA level measurements, levels of tryptophan hydroxylase mRNA in neurons of the ventromedial and dorsomedial portions of the dorsal raphe nucleus were increased 2 days after PCPA administration and fell to control levels 7 days after injection in the ventromedial region but not in the dorsomedial portion of the dorsal raphe nucleus, where they remained significantly higher than controls. Altogether, these results show that changes in 5-HT transporter mRNA are not temporally related to changes in 5-HT transporter protein levels. In addition, our results suggest that the 5-HT transporter and tryptophan hydroxylase genes are regulated by different mechanisms. We also provide further evidence that dorsal raphe 5-HT neurons are differentially regulated by drugs, depending on their location.