Dysfunctions in serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) systems have been associated with several psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders and autism spectrum disorders. Convergent evidence from genetic analyses of human subjects has implicated the integrin β3 subunit gene (ITGB3) as a modulator of serotonergic systems via genetic interactions with the 5-HT transporter gene (SLC6A4, SERT). While genetic interactions may result from contributions of each gene at several levels, we hypothesize that ITGB3 modulates the 5-HT system at the level of the synapse, through the actions of integrin αvβ3. Here we utilized a genetic approach in mouse models to examine Itgb3 contributions to SERT function both in the context of normal and reduced SERT expression. As integrin αvβ3 is expressed in postsynaptic membranes, we isolated synaptoneurosomes, which maintain intact pre- and post-synaptic associations. Citalopram binding revealed significant Slc6a4-driven reductions in SERT expression in midbrain synapses, whereas no significant changes were observed in hippocampal or cortical projections. Expecting corresponding changes to SERT function, we also measured 5-HT uptake activity in synaptoneurosomal preparations. Itgb3 single heterozygous mice displayed significant reductions in 5-HT Vmax, with no changes in Km, in midbrain preparations. However, in the presence of both Itgb3 and Slc6a4 heterozygozity, 5-HT uptake was similar to wild-type levels, revealing a significant Slc6a4 by Itgb3 genetic interaction in the midbrain. Similar findings were observed in cortical preparations, whereas in the hippocampus, most Vmax changes were driven solely by Slc6a4. Our findings provide evidence that integrin αvβ3 is involved in the regulation of serotonergic systems in some, but not all 5-HT synapses, revealing novel contributions to synaptic specificity within the central nervous system.
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