Affective and cognitive effects of global deletion of α3-containing gamma-aminobutyric acid-A receptors

Roberto Fiorelli, Uwe Rudolph, Carolin J. Straub, Joram Feldon, Benjamin K. Yee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptors characterized by the presence of the α3 subunit are the major GABAA receptor subtype expressed in brain stem monoaminergic nuclei. These α3-GABAA receptors are therefore in a unique position to regulate monoaminergic functions. To characterize the functional properties of α3-GABAA receptors, we present a preliminary assessment of the expression of affective and cognitive behaviour in male mice with a targeted deletion of the Gabra3 gene encoding the α3 subunit [α3 knockout (KO) mice] on a C57BL/6J×129X1/SvJ F1 hybrid genetic background. The α3 KO mice did not exhibit any gross change of anxiety-like behaviour or spontaneous locomotor behaviour. In the Porsolt forced swim test for potential antidepressant activity, α3 KO mice exhibited reduced floating and enhanced swimming behaviour relative to wild-type controls. Performance on a two-choice sucrose preference test, however, revealed no evidence for an increase in sucrose preference in the α3 KO mice that would have substantiated a potential phenotype for depression-related behaviour. In contrast, a suggestion of an enhanced negative contrast effect was revealed in a one-bottle sucrose consumption test across different sucrose concentrations. These affective phenotypes were accompanied by alterations in the balance between conditioned responding to the discrete conditioned stimulus and to the context, and a suggestion of faster extinction, in the Pavlovian conditioned freezing paradigm. Spatial learning in the water maze reference memory test, however, was largely unchanged in the α3 KO mice, except for a trend of preservation during reversal learning. The novel phenotypes following global deletion of the GABAA receptor α3 subunit identified here provided relevant insights, in addition to our earlier study, into the potential behavioural relevance of this specific receptor subtypes in the modulation of both affective and cognitive functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-596
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Forced swim test
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid-A alpha subunit
  • Knockout
  • Mouse


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