Previous studies have shown that serotonergic neurons of the median raphe nucleus have a suppressive effect on theta synchronization in the hippocampus. Median raphe lesion, suppression of 5-HT neuronal activity by administration of GABAA receptor antagonist or by glutamate blockade or depletion produced long-lasting non-interrupted hippocampal theta in freely behaving rats independent of behavior and in rats anesthetized with urethane. Serotonergic neurons show a characteristic sleep-wake pattern of activity and there is evidence that GABAergic mechanisms play an important role in their regulation. In this study we analyzed the distribution and subcellular localization of GABAB receptors in the midbrain raphe complex using combined 5-HT/GABAB receptor immunohistochemistry at the light and electron microscopic levels and studied the effects of their pharmacological manipulation on hippocampal electroencephalographic activity in urethane-anesthetized rats. We found that sustained infusion of the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen into the median raphe nucleus, using the microdialysis technique, elicited lasting theta activity in the hippocampus. The effect was antagonized by selective GABAB receptor antagonists. The predominant localization of GABAB receptors in the median, as well as in dorsal raphe was found on serotonergic neurons which strongly indicates that the increase in theta occurrence after baclofen injection resulted from suppression of the serotonergic output originating from the median raphe. On the electron microscopic level, we found GABAB receptors located extrasynaptically indicating that these receptors are preferentially activated by strong inputs, i.e. when GABA released from the synaptic terminals is sufficient to spill over from the synaptic cleft. Such conditions might be satisfied during rapid eye movement sleep when GABAergic neurons in the raphe are firing at their highest rate and in rhythmic synchronized bursts. Our data indicate that midbrain raphe GABAB mechanisms play an important role in behavioral state control and in hippocampal activity, in particular.
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