• 5-HT2;
  • 5-HT7;
  • central pattern generator;
  • N-methyl-d,l-aspartate


Serotonin (5-HT) plays a critical role in locomotor pattern generation by modulating the rhythm and the coordinations. Pet-1, a transcription factor selectively expressed in the raphe nuclei, controls the differentiation of 5-HT neurons. Surprisingly, inactivation of Pet-1 (Pet-1−/− mice) that causes a 70% reduction in the number of 5-HT-positive neurons in the raphe does not impair locomotion in adult mice. The goal of the present study was to investigate the operation of the locomotor central pattern generator (CPG) in neonatal Pet-1−/− mice. We first confirmed, by means of immunohistochemistry, that there is a marked reduction of 5-HT innervation in the lumbar spinal cord of Pet-1−/− mice. Fictive locomotion was induced in the in vitro neonatal mouse spinal cord preparation by bath application of N-methyl-d,l-Aspartate (NMA) alone or together with dopamine and 5-HT. A locomotor pattern characterized by left–right and flexor–extensor alternations was observed in both conditions. Increasing the concentration of 5-HT from 0.5 to 5 μm impaired the pattern in Pet-1−/− mice. We tested the role of endogenous 5-HT in the NMA-induced fictive locomotion. Application of 5-HT2 or 5-HT7 receptor antagonists affected the NMA-induced fictive locomotion in both heterozygous and homozygous mice although the effects were weaker in the latter strain. This may be, at least partly, explained by the reduced expression of 5-HT2AR as observed by means of immunohistochemistry. These results suggest that compensatory mechanisms take place in Pet-1−/− mice that make locomotion less dependent upon 5-HT.