GABAergic Control of Critical Developmental Periods for Anxiety- and Depression-Related Behavior in Mice

Qiuying Shen, Thomas Fuchs, Nadia Sahir, Bernhard Luscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Vulnerability for anxiety and depressive disorders is thought to have origins in early life and is increasingly recognized to involve deficits in GABAergic neurotransmission. Mice that were rendered heterozygous for the γ2 subunit gene of GABAA receptors (GABAARs) show behavioral, cognitive, neuroendocrine and pharmacologic features expected of a mouse model of melancholic anxious depression, including reduced survival of adult-born hippocampal neurons. Here we embarked on elucidating the developmental substrate underlying this phenotype, focusing on the Elevated Plus Maze and Forced Swim Test as relevant behavioral paradigms. In a first series of experiments using hemizygous tamoxifen-induced genetic inactivation of a floxed γ2 genomic locus we show that reducing the gene dosage at postnatal days (P)13/14 but not P27/28 results in altered behavior in both of these tests in adulthood, reminiscent of the anxious-depressive phenotype previously described for global heterozygous mice. However, in contrast to global heterozygous mice, the behavioral changes induced by γ2 subunit knockdown at P13/14 occurred without changes in adult hippocampal neurogenesis, indicating that altered neurogenesis is not an absolute prerequisite for anxiety- and depression-related behavior in this model. In a separate series of experiments using a pharmacological approach, acute but transient potentiation of GABAARs with diazepam uncovered distinct developmental vulnerabilities for altered behavior in the Elevated Plus Maze and Forced Swim Test, respectively. Specifically, diazepam given during P10-16 but not during later weeks resulted in increased anxiety-like behavior in adulthood, while diazepam administered during P29-35 but not earlier nor later resulted in increased immobility behavior in adulthood. We conclude that anxiety-like behavior in the Elevated Plus Maze and behavioral despair-like immobility in the Forced Swim Test are controlled by separate postnatal critical periods characterized by distinct developmental sensitivity to manipulation of GABAergic transmission via γ2 subunit-containing GABAARs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere47441
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 11 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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