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Serotonin transporter (SERT) and translocator protein (TSPO) expression in the obese ob/ob mouse

Gino Giannaccini1*, Laura Betti1, Lionella Palego1, Andrea Pirone2, Lara Schmid1, Mario Lanza1, Laura Fabbrini1, Caterina Pelosini3, Margherita Maffei3, Ferruccio Santini3, Aldo Pinchera3 and Antonio Lucacchini1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Biotechnology, University of Pisa, University of Pisa, Via Bonanno 6, 56126 Pisa, Italy

2 Department of Physiological Sciences, University of Pisa, Via delle Piagge 2, Pisa, 56124, Italy

3 Department of Endocrinology and Kidney, University Hospital of Pisa, Via Paradisa 2, Pisa 56124, Italy

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:18  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-18

Published: 7 February 2011



An ever growing body of evidences is emerging concerning metabolism hormones, neurotransmitters or stress-related biomarkers as effective modulators of eating behavior and body weight in mammals. The present study sought at examining the density and affinity of two proteins related to neurotransmission and cell metabolism, the serotonin transporter SERT and the cholesterol import-benzodiazepine site TSPO (translocator protein), in a rodent leptin-lacking mutant, the obese ob/ob mouse. Binding studies were thus carried out in brain or peripheral tissues, blood platelets (SERT) and kidneys (TSPO), of ob/ob and WT mice supplied with a standard diet, using the selective radiochemical ligands [3H]-paroxetine and [3H]-PK11195.


We observed comparable SERT number or affinity in brain and platelets of ob/ob and WT mice, whilst a significantly higher [3H]-PK11195 density was reported in the brain of ob/ob animals. TSPO binding parameters were similar in the kidneys of all tested mice. By [3H]-PK11195 autoradiography of coronal hypothalamic-hippocampal sections, an increased TSPO signal was detected in the dentate gyrus (hippocampus) and choroids plexus of ob/ob mice, without appreciable changes in the cortex or hypothalamic-thalamic regions.


These findings show that TSPO expression is up-regulated in cerebral regions of ob/ob leptin-deficient mice, suggesting a role of the translocator protein in leptin-dependent CNS trophism and metabolism. Unchanged SERT in mutant mice is discussed herein in the context of previous literature as the forerunner to a deeper biochemical investigation.