Effects of developmental hyperserotonemia on the morphology of rat dentate nuclear neurons


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social cognition, disordered communication, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Furthermore, abnormalities in basic motor control, skilled motor gestures, and motor learning, are common in ASD. These characteristics have been attributed to a possible defect in the pre- and postnatal development of specific neural networks including the dentate-thalamo-cortical pathway, which is involved in motor learning, automaticity of movements, and higher cognitive functions.

The current study utilized custom diolistic labeling and unbiased stereology to characterize morphological alterations in neurons of the dentate nucleus of the cerebellum in developing rat pups exposed to abnormally high levels of the serotonergic agonist 5-methyloxytryptamine (5-MT) pre-and postnatally. Occurring in as many as 30% of autistic subjects, developmental hyperserotonemia (DHS) is the most consistent neurochemical finding reported in autism and has been implicated in the pathophysiology of ASD. This exposure produced dramatic changes in dendritic architecture and synaptic features. We observed changes in the dendritic branching morphology which did not lead to significant differences (p > 0.5) in total dendritic length. Instead, DHS groups presented with dendritic trees that display changes in arborescence, that appear to be short reaching with elaborately branched segments, presenting with significantly fewer (p > 0.001) dendritic spines and a decrease in numeric density when compared to age-matched controls. These negative changes may be implicated in the neuropathological and functional/behavioral changes observed in ASD, such as delays in motor learning, difficulties in automaticity of movements, and deficits in higher cognitive functions.


Biomedical Sciences

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autism spectrum disorder, hyperserotonemia, dentate nucleus, stereology, diolistic labeling, neuronal morphology

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