Quantitative immunocytochemical evaluation of serotonergic innervation in alcoholic rat brain

F. C. Zhou, L. Lumeng, T. K. Liz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Neurotoxicity can be divided into three levels: depletion, degeneration and denervation. The first level is determined by the transmitter content, and the second and third levels, which require anatomical evaluation, can be analyzed by quantitative immunocytochemistry on a specific neurotransmitter system. An antibody specific to serotonin (5-HT) can reveal detailed normal as well as degenerative morphology of 5-HT neurons. Quantitative alterations of 5-HT fibers in a particular brain region indicate degenerative or plastic changes. This study demonstrates quantitative immunocytochemistry by using image analysis of immunostained 5-HT fibers in selectively-bred, alcohol-preferring and nonpreferring rats, which are known to have divergent drinking behaviors, and 5-HT contents in specific brain regions. The method of the image analysis is described in detail and the advantages and disadvantages of using this method to detect the degeneration of a particular fiber system are discussed. The 'area density' traditionally measured in image analysis was converted (with Zhou-Tam formula) into 'volume density' to correct the mismeasurement of fibers through the optical depth. Quantitative immunostaining shows that the difference in 5-HT fiber density in particular brain regions between the two rat lines is consistent with changes in content of the 5HT/5-HIAA and hypersensitivity of 5-HTI a receptor. This result indicates either (a) the 5-HT content is too low to be detected in the nerve terminals; (b) degeneration of 5-HT fibers occurs in P rats sometime during development; or (c) a smaller number of 5-HT fibers was preprogrammed in the brain regions of P than NP rats. Further confirmation is required to determine the degeneration/denervation, and additional evidence provided through non-transmitter markers is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-143
Number of pages9
JournalNeurochemistry International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology

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