Benzodiazepine-induced anxiolysis and reduction of conditioned fear are mediated by distinct GABAA receptor subtypes in mice

Kiersten S. Smith, Elif Engin, Edward G. Meloni, Uwe Rudolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

GABAA receptor modulating drugs such as benzodiazepines (BZs) have been used to treat anxiety disorders for over five decades. In order to determine whether the same or different GABAA receptor subtypes are necessary for the anxiolytic-like action of BZs in unconditioned anxiety and conditioned fear models, we investigated the role of different GABAA receptor subtypes by challenging wild type, α1(H101R), α2(H101R) and α3(H126R) mice bred on the C57BL/6J background with diazepam or chlordiazepoxide in the elevated plus maze and the fear-potentiated startle paradigms. Both drugs significantly increased open arm exploration in the elevated plus maze in wild type, α1(H101R) and α3(H126R), but this effect was abolished in α2(H101R) mice; these were expected results based on previous published results. In contrast, while administration of diazepam and chlordiazepoxide significantly attenuated fear-potentiated startle (FPS) in wild type mice and α3(H126R) mice, the fear-reducing effects of these drugs were absent in both α1(H101R) and α2(H101R) point mutants, indicating that both α1- and α2-containing GABAA receptors are necessary for BZs to exert their effects on conditioned fear responses. Our findings illustrate both an overlap and a divergence between the GABAA receptor subtype requirements for the impact of BZs, specifically that both α1- and α2-containing GABAA receptors are necessary for BZs to reduce conditioned fear whereas only α2-containing GABAA receptors are needed for BZ-induced anxiolysis in unconditioned tests of anxiety. This raises the possibility that GABAergic pharmacological interventions for specific anxiety disorders can be differentially tailored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-258
Number of pages9
JournalNeuropharmacology
Volume63
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Conditioned fear
  • Fear-potentiated startle
  • GABA receptor
  • α subunit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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