Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) containing neurons located in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DR) comprise the main source of forebrain 5-HT and regulate emotional states in normal and pathological conditions including affective disorders. However, there are many features of the local circuit architecture within the DR that remain poorly understood. DR neurons receive glutamatergic innervation from different brain areas that selectively express three different types of the vesicular glutamate transporter (VGLUT). In this study we used a new high-resolution imaging technique, array tomography, to quantitatively analyze the glutamatergic innervation of the mouse DR. In the same volumetric images, we studied the distribution of five antigens: VGLUT1, VGLUT2, VGLUT3, the postsynaptic protein PSD-95, and a marker for 5-HT cells, the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPOH). We found that all three populations of glutamatergic boutons are present in the DR; however, the density of paired association between VGLUT2 boutons and PSD-95 was ≈2-fold higher than that of either VGLUT1- or VGLUT3-PSD-95 pairs. In addition, VGLUT2-PSD-95 pairs were more commonly found associated with 5-HT cells than the other VGLUT types. These data support a prominent contribution of glutamate axons expressing VGLUT2 to the excitatory drive of DR neurons. The current study also emphasizes the use of array tomography as a quantitative approach to understand the fine molecular architecture of microcircuits in a well-preserved neuroanatomical context.
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