A retinoraphe projection regulates serotonergic activity and looming-evoked defensive behaviour

Lu Huang, Tifei Yuan, Minjie Tan, Yue Xi, Yu Hu, Qian Tao, Zhikai Zhao, Jiajun Zheng, Yushui Han, Fuqiang Xu, Minmin Luo, Patricia J. Sollars, Mingliang Pu, Gary E. Pickard, Kwok Fai So, Chaoran Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Animals promote their survival by avoiding rapidly approaching objects that indicate threats. In mice, looming-evoked defensive responses are triggered by the superior colliculus (SC) which receives direct retinal inputs. However, the specific neural circuits that begin in the retina and mediate this important behaviour remain unclear. Here we identify a subset of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that controls mouse looming-evoked defensive responses through axonal collaterals to the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) and SC. Looming signals transmitted by DRN-projecting RGCs activate DRN GABAergic neurons that in turn inhibit serotoninergic neurons. Moreover, activation of DRN serotoninergic neurons reduces looming-evoked defensive behaviours. Thus, a dedicated population of RGCs signals rapidly approaching visual threats and their input to the DRN controls a serotonergic self-gating mechanism that regulates innate defensive responses. Our study provides new insights into how the DRN and SC work in concert to extract and translate visual threats into defensive behavioural responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14908
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Mar 31 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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