Serotonin limits generation of chromaffin cells during adrenal organ development


Adrenal glands are the major organs releasing catecholamines and regulating our stress response. The mechanisms balancing generation of adrenergic chromaffin cells and protecting against neuroblastoma tumors are still enigmatic. Here we revealed that serotonin (5HT) controls the numbers of chromaffin cells by acting upon their immediate progenitor bridge cells via 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor 3A (HTR3A), and the aggressive HTR3Ahigh human neuroblastoma cell lines reduce proliferation in response to HTR3A-specific agonists. In embryos (in vivo), the physiological increase of 5HT caused a prolongation of the cell cycle in bridge progenitors leading to a smaller chromaffin population and changing the balance of hormones and behavioral patterns in adulthood. These behavioral effects and smaller adrenals were mirrored in the progeny of pregnant female mice subjected to experimental stress, suggesting a maternal-fetal link that controls developmental adaptations. Finally, these results corresponded to a size-distribution of adrenals found in wild rodents with different coping strategies.

Nature Communications