• cellular distribution;
  • immunocytochemistry;
  • mood;
  • neurokinin receptors


In addition to its neurotransmitter/modulator role in pain perception, substance P (SP) is involved in a regulation of mood, as antagonists of its neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1r) have been found to have antidepressant-like effects in humans. In rodents, treatment with NK1r antagonists has been shown to increase the firing of dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) neurons and to induce a desensitization of their 5-HT1A autoreceptors, suggesting local interactions between the SP and 5-HT systems. To search for the presence of NK1r on 5-HT neurons of the DRN, we used light and electron microscopic immunocytochemistry, as well as confocal microscopy, after single- and double-labelling of NK1r and of the biosynthetic enzyme of 5-HT, tryptophan hydroxylase (TpOH). A significant number of 5-HT (TpOH-positive) cell bodies and dendrites endowed with NK1r were thus demonstrated in the caudal part of rat and mouse DRN. As visualized by electron microscopy after gold immunolabelling, NK1r was mostly cytoplasmic in 5-HT neurons, while predominating on the plasma membrane in the case of TpOH-negative dendrites. The proportion of NK1r observed on the plasma membrane of 5-HT neurons was, however, slightly higher in mouse than rat. Thus, in both rat and mouse DRN, a subpopulation of 5-HT neurons is endowed with NK1r receptors and may be directly involved in the antidepressant-like effects of NK1r antagonists. These 5-HT neurons represent a new element in the neuronal circuitry currently proposed to account for the role of SP in mood regulation.