Decreased cortical serotonin in neonatal rabbits exposed to endotoxin in utero

Sujatha Kannan, Fadoua Saadani-Makki, Bindu Balakrishnan, Hui Dai, Pulak K. Chakraborty, James Janisse, Otto Muzik, Roberto Romero, Diane C. Chugani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal intrauterine inflammation is implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders in the offspring. Serotonin is crucial for regulating maturation in the developing brain, and maternal inflammation may result in disruption of the serotonergic system in the perinatal period. Saline or endotoxin was injected intrauterine in pregnant rabbits term. Newborn rabbits underwent positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with α 11 Cmethyl-L-tryptophan (AMT) to evaluate tryptophan metabolism in vivo. Decrease in standard uptake value for AMT and decrease in serotonin concentration was noted in the frontal and parietal cortices of endotoxin kits when compared with controls. In addition, a significant decrease in serotonin-immunoreactive fibers and decreased expression of serotonin transporter (5HTT) was measured in the somatosensory cortex. There was a three-fold increase in the number of apoptotic cells in the ventrobasal (VB) thalamus without loss of raphe serotonergic cell bodies in endotoxin kits when compared with controls. Glutamateric VB neurons projecting to somatosensory cortex transiently express 5HTT and store serotonin, regulating development of the somatosensory cortex. Intrauterine inflammation results in alterations in cortical serotonin and disruption of serotonin-regulated thalamocortical development in the newborn brain. This may be a common link in neurodevelopmental disorders resulting in impairment of the somatosensory system, such as cerebral palsy and autism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-749
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • PET
  • autism
  • cerebral palsy
  • maternal inflammation
  • serotonin
  • somatosensory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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