• actin;
  • dendrites;
  • growth cone;
  • morphometry;
  • mouse


Mice lacking serotonin receptor 1A (Htr1a) display increased anxiety behavior that depends on the expression of the receptor in the forebrain during the third to fifth postnatal weeks. Within the forebrain, Htr1a is prominently expressed in the soma and dendrites of CA1 pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus and these cells undergo rapid dendritic growth and synapse formation during this period. Consistent with a possible role of Htr1a in synaptic maturation, CA1 pyramidal neurons in the knockout mice show increased ramification of oblique dendrites. These findings suggest that Htr1a may shape hippocampal circuits by directly modulating dendritic growth. Here we show that pharmacological blockade of the receptor during the third to fifth postnatal weeks is sufficient to reproduce the increased branching of oblique dendrites seen in knockout mice. Using dissociated hippocampal cultures we demonstrate that serotonin functions through Htr1a to attenuate the motility of dendritic growth cones, reduce their content of filamentous actin and alter their morphology. These findings suggest that serotonin modulates actin cytoskeletal dynamics in hippocampal neurons during a limited developmental period to restrict dendritic growth and achieve a long-term adjustment of neural connectivity.