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BACKGROUND: Several lines of evidence implicate 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) in the pathophysiology of mood disorders and suicide. However, it is unclear whether these conditions include morphological involvement of the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), the origin of most forebrain 5-HT innervation. METHOD: We used morphometric, immunohistochemical, and molecular methods to compare the DRN in post-mortem tissue of 50 subjects (13 controls, 14 major depressive disorder [MDD], 13 bipolar disorder, 10 schizophrenia; 17 of the cases died by suicide). NeuN and PH8 antibodies were used to assess all neurons and serotonergic neurons respectively; 5-HT(1A) autoreceptor expression was investigated by regional and cellular in situ hybridization. Measurements were made at three rostrocaudal levels of the DRN. RESULTS: In MDD, the area of the DRN was decreased. In bipolar disorder, serotonergic neuronal size was decreased. Suicide was associated with an increased DRN area, and with a higher density but decreased size of serotonergic neurons. Total neuronal density and 5-HT(1A) receptor mRNA abundance were unaffected by diagnosis or suicide. No changes were seen in schizophrenia. CONCLUSION: The results show that mood disorders and suicide are associated with differential, limited morphological alterations of the DRN. The contrasting influences of MDD and suicide may explain some of the discrepancies between previous studies, since their design precluded detection of the effect.

Original publication




Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





125 - 134


Adult, Autoreceptors, Bipolar Disorder, Depressive Disorder, Major, Female, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, In Situ Hybridization, Male, Middle Aged, Raphe Nuclei, Schizophrenia, Serotonergic Neurons, Serotonin, Suicide