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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2001 May;25(3):261-73.

Targeted gene mutation approaches to the study of anxiety-like behavior in mice.

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  • 1Section on Behavioral Pharmacology, Experimental Therapeutics Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892-1375, USA.


Studying the behavioral phenotypes of transgenic and gene knockout mice is a powerful means to better understand the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders and ultimately improve their treatment. This paper provides an overview of the methods and findings of studies that have tested for anxiety-related behavioral phenotypes in gene mutant mice. In the context of improving the side effect burden of benzodiazepines, gene targeting has been valuable for dissociating the functional roles (i.e., anxiolytic, sedative, amnestic) of individual GABA(A) receptor subunits. Supporting the link between abnormalities in CRH function and anxiety, CRH overexpressing transgenic mice and CRH-R2 receptor knockout mutants have displayed significantly increased anxiety-like behavior, while CRH-R1 receptor knockout mice have shown an anxiolytic-like phenotype. Consistent with an important role for the serotonergic system in anxiety, 5-HT1(A) receptor deficient mice have consistently exhibited heightened anxiety-like behavior, while the evidence from 5-HT1(B) and 5-HT2(C) deficient mice remains somewhat equivocal. Mutant mice lacking either of the monoamine degrading enzymes, MAOA or COMT, have shown a number of behavioral and neurological effects, including alterations in anxiety-like behavior. With enhanced spatial and temporal control over gene mutations, in combination with an improved battery of behavioral tests, gene mutant mice will provide an increasingly valuable tool for understanding the neural substrates of anxiety.

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