Light-activated serotonin for exploring its action in biological systems

Adam C. Rea, Laura N. Vandenberg, Rebecca E. Ball, Ashley A. Snouffer, Alicia G. Hudson, Yue Zhu, Duncan E. McLain, Lindsey L. Johnston, James D. Lauderdale, Michael Levin, Timothy M. Dore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Summary Serotonin (5-HT) is a neuromodulator involved in regulating mood, appetite, memory, learning, pain, and establishment of left-right (LR) asymmetry in embryonic development. To explore the role of 5-HT in physiology, we have created two forms of "caged" 5-HT, BHQ-O-5HT and BHQ-N-5HT. When exposed to 365 or 740 nm light, BHQ-O-5HT releases 5-HT through one- or two-photon excitation, respectively. BHQ-O-5HT mediated changes in neural activity in cultured mouse primary sensory neurons and the trigeminal ganglion and optic tectum of intact zebrafish larvae in the form of high-amplitude spiking in response to light. In Xenopus laevis embryos, light-activated 5-HT increased the occurrence of LR patterning defects. Maximal rates of LR defects were observed when 5-HT was released at stage 5 compared with stage 8. These experiments show the potential for BHQ-caged serotonins in studying 5-HT-regulated physiological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1536-1546
Number of pages11
JournalChemistry and Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 19 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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