Differential neurochemical properties of central serotonergic transmission in Roman high- and low-avoidance rats


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Osvaldo Giorgi, Department of Toxicology, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, 09124 Cagliari, Italy. E-mail: giorgi@unica.it


The selective breeding of Roman high- (RHA/Verh) and low-avoidance (RLA/Verh) rats for rapid versus poor acquisition of active avoidant behaviour has produced two behavioural phenotypes with different performances in a variety of animal models of anxiety, in which RLA/Verh rats are consistently more fearful than RHA/Verh rats. In addition, these two lines display different functional properties of brain neurotransmitters like serotonin (5-HT), known to be involved in the expression of anxiety- and depression-related behaviours. Therefore, we used brain microdialysis and [3H]-citalopram binding autoradiography to characterize further the neurochemical properties of 5-HTergic transmission in the two lines. No significant line-related differences were detected in the basal 5-HT output in the frontoparietal cortex (FPCx). In contrast, the increase in the cortical 5-HT output elicited by the systemic administration or the local application, via reverse dialysis, of chlorimipramine and fluoxetine was more robust in RHA/Verh than in RLA/Verh rats. Moreover, the binding signal of [3H]-citalopram to 5-HT re-uptake sites was more intense in the FPCx of RHA/Verh rats than in their RLA/Verh counterparts. These findings suggest that the functional tone of the 5-HTergic projection to the FPCx is stronger in the RHA/Verh line relative to the RLA/Verh line. It is proposed that RLA/Verh rats may be used as a model with heuristic value for studying the role of 5-HTergic transmission in anxiety and in the anxiolytic effects of monoamine re-uptake inhibitors.