Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) neurons are implicated in the etiology and therapeutics of anxiety and depression. Critical periods of vulnerability during brain development enable maladaptive mechanisms to produce detrimental consequences on adult mood and emotional responses. 5-HT plays a crucial role in these mechanisms; however, little is known about how synaptic inputs and modulatory systems that shape the activity of early 5-HT networks mature during postnatal development. We investigated in mice the postnatal trajectory of glutamate and GABA synaptic inputs to dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) 5-HT neurons, the main source of forebrain 5-HT. High-resolution quantitative analyses with array tomography and ex vivo electrophysiology indicate that cortical glutamate and subcortical GABA synapses undergo a profound refinement process after the third postnatal week, whereas subcortical glutamate inputs do not. This refinement of DRN inputs is not accompanied by changes in 5-HT1A receptor-mediated inhibition over 5-HT neurons. Our study reveals a precise developmental pattern of synaptic refinement of DRN excitatory and inhibitory afferents, when 5-HT-related inhibitory mechanisms are in place. These findings contribute to the understanding of neurodevelopmental vulnerability to psychiatric disorders.

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