Analysis of 5-HT6 and 5-HT7 receptor gene expression in rats showing differences in novelty-seeking behavior

Ballaz, S.J.; Akil, H.; Watson, S.J.
Neuroscience. 2007; 147(2):428-438.


Sensation-seeking is a human personality trait associated with a greater propensity to use psychoactive substances. A rat model showing face validity of this human trait has been developed. The model is based on the variety of behavioral responses that rats exhibit in a novel and inescapable environment, with some animals (high-responders, HR) being highly active, and others (low-responders, LR) showing less exploration. More active rats (HR) also show increased drug-taking and decreased anxiety-like behavior. There is evidence that response to novelty may rely on differential 5-HT-mediated neurotransmission. This research focuses on the recently discovered 5-HT6 and 5-HT7 receptors which share affinity for neuroleptic drugs and hallucinogens. To date, emerging evidence suggests that 5-HT6 and 5-HT7 may be involved in cognition and mood regulation, respectively. To further our knowledge of their behavioral attributes, we compared patterns of gene expression for these receptors in the brains of HR and LR rats. As a control, gene expression for the 5-HT3 receptor was investigated because its contribution to anxiety and addiction is only weakly demonstrated. Transcript levels for 5-HT6 in the olfactory tubercle inversely correlated with the level of locomotion in a novel environment. Phenotype differences in mRNA signal for 5-HT6 showed a complex pattern in the dentate gyrus. LR rats were statistically higher in the most anterior region of the dentate gyrus, while HR rats were higher in median areas of the dentate gyrus. Levels of 5-HT7 transcript in HR rats were significantly lower than LR rats in pivotal areas for information trafficking, such as thalamo-cortical projection areas and dorsal hippocampus. By contrast, phenotype differences in 5-HT3 expression were not found in areas of the limbic cortex and mesolimbic system. Taken together, these results provide new insight into the potential contribution of 5-HT to novelty-seeking behavior and associated behaviors such as substance abuse.