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BMC Neurosci. 2007 Oct 10;8:85.

New insight into the role of the beta3 subunit of the GABAA-R in development, behavior, body weight regulation, and anesthesia revealed by conditional gene knockout.

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Departments of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.



The beta3 subunit of the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor (GABAA-R) has been reported to be important for palate formation, anesthetic action, and normal nervous system function. This subunit has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of Angelman syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. To further investigate involvement of this subunit, we previously produced mice with a global knockout of beta3. However, developmental abnormalities, compensation, reduced viability, and numerous behavioral abnormalities limited the usefulness of that murine model. To overcome many of these limitations, a mouse line with a conditionally inactivated beta3 gene was engineered.


Gene targeting and embryonic stem cell technologies were used to create mice in which exon 3 of the beta3 subunit was flanked by loxP sites (i.e., floxed). Crossing the floxed beta3 mice to a cre general deleter mouse line reproduced the phenotype of the previously described global knockout. Pan-neuronal knockout of beta3 was achieved by crossing floxed beta3 mice to Synapsin I-cre transgenic mice. Palate development was normal in pan-neuronal beta3 knockouts but ~61% died as neonates. Survivors were overtly normal, fertile, and were less sensitive to etomidate. Forebrain selective knockout of beta3 was achieved using alpha CamKII-cre transgenic mice. Palate development was normal in forebrain selective beta3 knockout mice. These knockouts survived the neonatal period, but ~30% died between 15-25 days of age. Survivors had reduced reproductive fitness, reduced sensitivity to etomidate, were hyperactive, and some became obese.


Conditional inactivation of the beta3 gene revealed novel insight into the function of this GABAA-R subunit. The floxed beta3 knockout mice described here will be very useful for conditional knockout studies to further investigate the role of the beta3 subunit in development, ethanol and anesthetic action, normal physiology, and pathophysiologic processes.

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