ZFIN ID: ZDB-PUB-200501-2
Conserved serotonergic background of experience-dependent behavioral responsiveness in zebrafish (Danio rerio)
Varga, Z.K., Pejtsik, D., Biró, L., Zsigmond, Á., Varga, M., Tóth, B., Salamon, V., Annus, T., Mikics, É., Aliczki, M.
Date: 2020
Source: The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience   40(23): 4551-4564 (Journal)
Registered Authors: Varga, Máté, Zsigmond, Aron
Keywords: none
MeSH Terms:
  • Animals
  • Arousal/drug effects
  • Arousal/physiology*
  • Avoidance Learning/drug effects
  • Avoidance Learning/physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal/drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal/physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A/physiology*
  • Serotonin/physiology*
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists/pharmacology*
  • Social Isolation/psychology
  • Zebrafish
PubMed: 32350040 Full text @ J. Neurosci.
Forming effective responses to threatening stimuli requires the adequate and coordinated emergence of stress-related internal states. Such ability depends on early-life experiences and, in connection, the adequate formation of neuromodulatory systems, particularly serotonergic signaling. Here, we assess the serotonergic background of experience-dependent behavioral responsiveness employing male and female zebrafish (Danio rerio). For the first time, we have characterized a period during behavioral metamorphosis in which zebrafish are highly reactive to their environment. Absence of social stimuli during this phase established by isolated rearing fundamentally altered the behavioral phenotype of post-metamorphic zebrafish in a challenge-specific manner, partially due to reduced responsiveness and an inability to develop stress-associated arousal state. In line with this, isolation differentially affected whole-brain serotonergic signaling in resting and stress-induced conditions, an effect that was localized in the dorsal pallium and was negatively associated with responsiveness. Administration of the serotonin receptor 1A partial agonist buspirone prevented the isolation-induced serotonin response to novelty in the level of the whole-brain and the forebrain as well, without affecting catecholamine levels, and rescued stress-induced arousal along with challenge-induced behaviors, which altogether indicates functional connection between these changes. In summary, there is a consistent negative association between behavioral responsiveness and serotonergic signaling in zebrafish, which is well recognizable through the modifying effects of developmental perturbation and pharmacological manipulations as well. Our results imply a conserved serotonergic mechanism that context-dependently modulates environmental reactivity and is highly sensitive to experiences acquired during a specific early-life time-window, a phenomenon that was previously only suggested in mammals.Significance statementThe ability to respond to challenges is a fundamental factor in survival. We show that zebrafish that lack appropriate social stimuli in a sensitive developmental period show exacerbated alertness in non-stressful conditions while failing to react adequately to stressors. This shift is reflected inversely by central serotonergic signaling, a system that is implicated in numerous mental disorders in humans. Serotonergic changes in brain regions modulating responsivity and behavioral impairment were both prevented by the pharmacological blockade of serotonergic function. These results imply a serotonergic mechanism in zebrafish that transmits early-life experiences to the later phenotype by shaping stress-dependent behavioral reactivity, a phenomenon that was previously only suggested in mammals. Zebrafish provide new insights into early-life-dependent neuromodulation of behavioral stress-responses.