A Pharmacogenetic 'Restriction-of-Function' Approach Reveals Evidence for Anxiolytic-Like Actions Mediated by α5-Containing GABA A Receptors in Mice

Lauren M. Behlke, Rachel A. Foster, Jing Liu, Dietmar Benke, Rebecca S. Benham, Anna J. Nathanson, Kay Yan Benjamin Yee, Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer, Elif Engin, Uwe Rudolph

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Benzodiazepines have been widely used for their anxiolytic actions. However, the contribution of GABAAreceptor subtypes to anxiolysis is still controversial. Studies with mutant mice harboring diazepam-insensitive α-subunits α1, α2, α3, or α5 have revealed that α2-containing GABAAreceptors (α2-GABAARs) are required for diazepam-induced anxiolysis, with no evidence for an involvement of any other α-subunit, whereas TP003, described as a selective modulator of α3-containing GABAAreceptors, was shown to be anxiolytic. Here, we describe a novel, systematic approach to evaluate the role of positive allosteric modulation of each of the four diazepam-sensitive α-subtypes in anxiety-related behavioral paradigms. By combining H to R point mutations in three out of the four diazepam-sensitive α-subunits in mice with a 129X1/SvJ background, diazepam becomes a subtype-specific modulator of the remaining non-mutated α-subtype. Modulation of α5-GABAARs, but not of α2-GABAARs, increased the time in the light side of the light-dark box as well as open-arm exploration in the elevated plus maze. In contrast, modulation of α3-GABAARs decreased open-arm exploration, whereas modulation of α2-GABAARs increased time in the center in the open-field test. Modulation of any single α-subtype had no effect on stress-induced hyperthermia. Our results provide evidence that modulation of α5-GABAARs elicits anxiolytic-like actions, whereas our data do not provide evidence for an anxiolytic-like action of α3-GABAARs. Thus, α5-GABAARs may be suitable targets for novel anxiolytic drugs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2492-2501
Number of pages10
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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