Identification of a serotonin receptor coupled to adenylyl cyclase involved in learning-related heterosynaptic facilitation in Aplysia

Serotonin (5-HT) plays a critical role in modulating synaptic plasticity in the marine mollusc Aplysia and in the mammalian nervous system. In Aplysia sensory neurons, 5-HT can activate several signal cascades, including PKA and PKC, presumably via distinct types of G protein-coupled receptors. However, the molecular identities of these receptors have not yet been identified. We here report the cloning and functional characterization of a 5-HT receptor that is positively coupled to adenylyl cyclase in Aplysia neurons. The cloned receptor, 5-HT(apAC1), stimulates the production of cAMP in HEK293T cells and in Xenopus oocytes. Moreover, the knockdown of 5-HT(apAC1) expression by RNA interference blocked 5-HT-induced cAMP production in Aplysia sensory neurons and blocked synaptic facilitation in nondepressed or partially depressed sensory-to-motor neuron synapses. These data implicate 5-HT(apAC1) as a major modulator of learning related synaptic facilitation in the direct sensory to motor neuron pathway of the gill withdrawal reflex.