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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007 May;87(1):146-57. Epub 2007 Apr 21.

Decreased anxiety-like behavior in beta3 nicotinic receptor subunit knockout mice.

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  • 1Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037 USA.


Nicotine, via a family of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, elicits many physiological responses, including alterations in anxiety. Studies suggest that the effects of nicotine on anxiety may support smoking behaviors. We reported previously that mice lacking the beta3 nicotinic receptor subunit demonstrate increased activity in the open field arena. Open field activity has been shown to be a composite of anxiety and locomotor activity, behaviors that are both altered by nicotine. We therefore sought to differentiate the role(s) of beta3-containing receptors in anxiety and locomotor activity. Anxiety behaviors were examined in the elevated plus maze, the black/white box and the mirrored chamber. Beta3 null mutant mice demonstrated decreased anxiety with more time spent on the open arm of the elevated plus maze than their wildtype littermates. No significant differences were observed with the black/white box or the mirrored chamber. Levels of the stress hormone, corticosterone, were significantly higher in the beta3 null mutant mice at baseline and following exposure to stress. Increased locomotor activity in the Y-maze was also observed for the beta3 null mutant mice, but only following exposure to stress. These findings strongly suggest that beta3-containing nicotinic receptors influence anxiety and may be critical for the continuation of smoking behaviors.

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