Patch-clamp recordings in whole-cell configuration were made from ventrolateral medulla neurons of brainstem slices from 8-12-day-old rats. 5- Hydroxytryptamine (3-30 μM) concentration-dependently suppressed excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic currents evoked by focal stimulation. An augmentation of inhibitory synaptic currents by 5-hydroxytryptamine was noted in a small number of neurons. 5-Hydroxytryptamine depressed synaptic currents with or without causing a significant change in holding currents and membrane conductances; the inward or outward currents induced by exogenously applied glutamate or GABA/glycine were also not significantly changed by 5- hydroxytryptamine. In paired-pulse paradigms designed to evaluate a presynaptic site of action, 5-hydroxytryptamine suppressed synaptic currents but enhanced the paired-pulse facilitation. 5-Hydroxytryptamine reduced the frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents without significantly affecting the amplitude. 5-Carboxamidotryptamine, 8-hydroxy-2(di-n- propylamino)tetralin, sumatriptan and N-(3-trifluoromethylphenyl)piperazine which exhibit 5-hydroxytryptamine 1 receptor agonist activity, depressed synaptic currents with different potencies, with 5-carboxamidotryptamine being the most potent. The non-selective 5-hydroxytryptamine 1 receptor antagonist pindolol attenuated the presynaptic effect of 5-hydroxytryptamine, whereas the 5-hydroxytryptamine(1A) antagonist pindobind-5- hydroxytryptamine(1A) and 5-hydroxytryptamine 2 receptor antagonist ketanserin were ineffective. Our results indicate that 5-hydroxytryptamine suppressed synaptic transmission in ventrolateral medulla neurons by activating presynaptic 5-hydroxytryptamine 1 receptors, probably the 5- hydroxytryptamine(1B)/5-hydroxytryptamine(1D) subtype. In addition, 5- hydroxytryptamine augmented inhibitory synaptic currents in a small number of neurons the site and mechanism of this potentiating action are not known.
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