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The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) plays an important role in mood disorders. It has been demonstrated that 5-HT signaling through 5-HT1A receptors (5-HT1A-R) is crucial for early postnatal hippocampal development and later-life behavior. Although this suggests that 5-HT1A-R signaling regulates early brain development, the mechanistic underpinnings of this process have remained unclear. Here we show that stimulation of the 5-HT1A-R at postnatal day 6 (P6) by intrahippocampal infusion of the agonist 8-OH-DPAT (D) causes signaling through protein kinase Cε (PKCε) and extracellular receptor activated kinase ½ (ERK1/2) to boost neuroblast proliferation in the dentate gyrus (DG), as displayed by an increase in bromodeoxy-uridine (BrdU), doublecortin (DCX) double-positive cells. This boost in neuroproliferation was eliminated in mice treated with D in the presence of a 5-HT1A-R antagonist (WAY100635), a selective PKCε inhibitor, or an ERK1/2-kinase (MEK) inhibitor (U0126). It is believed that hippocampal neuro-progenitors undergoing neonatal proliferation subsequently become postmitotic and enter the synaptogenesis phase. Double-staining with antibodies against bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and neuronal nuclear protein (NeuN) confirmed that 5-HT1A-R → PKCε → ERK1/2-mediated boosted neuroproliferation at P6 also leads to an increase in BrdU-labeled granular neurons at P36. This 5-HT1A-R-mediated increase in mature neurons was unlikely due to suppressed apoptosis, because terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling analysis showed no difference in DNA terminal labeling between vehicle and 8-OH-DPAT-infused mice. Therefore, 5-HT1A-R signaling through PKCε may play an important role in micro-neurogenesis in the DG at P6, following which many of these new-born neuroprogenitors develop into mature neurons.


This work was originally published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences available at

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



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