Transglutaminase Activity Determines Nuclear Localization of Serotonin Immunoreactivity in the Early Embryos of Invertebrates and Vertebrates. Academic Article uri icon


  • Serotonin (5-HT) is a key player in many physiological processes in both the adult organism and developing embryo. One of the mechanisms for 5-HT-mediated effects is covalent binding of 5-HT to the target proteins catalyzed by transglutaminases (serotonylation). Despite the implication in a variety of physiological processes, the involvement of serotonylation in embryonic development remains unclear. Here we tested the hypothesis that 5-HT serves as a substrate for transglutaminase-mediated transamidation of the nuclear proteins in the early embryos of both vertebrates and invertebrates. For this, we demonstrated that the level of serotonin immunoreactivity (5-HT-ir) in cell nuclei increases upon the elevation of 5-HT concentration in embryos of sea urchins, mollusks, and teleost fish. Consistently, pharmacological inhibition of transglutaminase activity resulted in the reduction of both brightness and nuclear localization of anti-5-HT staining. We identified specific and bright 5-HT-ir within nuclei attributed to a subset of different cell types: ectodermal and endodermal, macro- and micromeres, and blastoderm. Western blot and dot blot confirmed the presence of 5-HT-ir epitopes in the normal embryos of all the species examined. The experimental elevation of 5-HT level led to the enhancement of 5-HT-ir-related signal on blots in a species-specific manner. The obtained results demonstrate that 5-HT is involved in transglutaminase-dependent monoaminylation of nuclear proteins and suggest nuclear serotonylation as a possible regulatory mechanism during early embryonic development. The results reveal that this pathway is conserved in the development of both vertebrates and invertebrates.

publication date

  • August 21, 2019