The serotonin transporter (5-HTT) regulates serotonergic neurotransmission via clearance of extracellular serotonin. Abnormalities in 5-HTT expression or function are found in mood and anxiety disorders, and the 5-HTT is a major target for antidepressants and anxiolytics. The 5-HTT is further implicated in the pathophysiology of these disorders by evidence that genetic variation in the promoter region of the HTT (SLC6A4) is associated with individual differences in anxiety and neural responses to fear. To further evaluate the role of the 5-HTT in anxiety, we employed a mouse model in which the 5-HTT gene (htt) was constitutively inactivated. 5-HTT -/- mice were characterized for anxiety-related behaviors using a battery of tests (elevated plus maze, light<-->dark exploration test, emergence test, and open field test). Male and female 5-HTT -/- mice showed robust phenotypic abnormalities as compared to +/+ littermates, suggestive of increased anxiety-like behavior and inhibited exploratory locomotion. The selective 5-HT(1A) receptor antagonist, WAY 100635 (0.05-0.3 mg/kg), produced a significant anxiolytic-like effect in the elevated plus maze in 5-HTT -/- mice, but not +/+ controls. The present findings demonstrate abnormal behavioral phenotypes in 5-HTT null mutant mice in tests for anxiety-like and exploratory behavior, and suggest a role for the 5-HT(1A) receptor in mediating these abnormalities. 5-HTT null mutant mice provide a model to investigate the role of the 5-HTT in mood and anxiety disorders.