Changes in anxiety-related behaviors and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity in mice lacking the 5-HT-3A receptor

Physiol Behav. 2004 Jun;81(4):545-55. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2004.01.018.


The serotonin-3 (5-HT-3A) receptor has been localized in limbic and brainstem structures that regulate anxiety-related behavior and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity, but its role in regulating anxiety-related behaviors is equivocal, and evidence for its role in regulating HPA activity is limited. Therefore, we used 5-HT-3A receptor knockout (KO) mice to further study these issues. Behavior in the elevated plus maze, open field, light-dark box and after Pavlovian fear conditioning was examined in addition to HPA activity under basal and acute stress conditions. Compared to age-matched adult male wild-type (WT) controls, adult male KO mice exhibited increased distance traveled in the open arms of the elevated plus maze, consistent with decreased measures of anxiety. There were no differences between the two genotypes in exploratory behavior in the open field or light-dark test. KO mice displayed enhanced fear conditioning indexed by fear-induced freezing behavior. KO mice displayed lower adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) responses to restraint or lipopolysaccharide (LPS). In addition, lower vasopressin mRNA in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) and higher corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) mRNA in the central amygdala were observed in KO compared to WT mice. Therefore, deletion of the 5-HT-3A receptor revealed an important role for this receptor in regulating HPA responses to acute stress and a potential interaction between the 5-HT-3A receptor and CRH in the amygdala. Together, these data suggest that the 5-HT-3A receptor does not have a unitary role in the regulation of anxiety- and fear-related behaviors but has a potentially substantial role in the regulation of HPA activity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Arginine Vasopressin / genetics
  • Arginine Vasopressin / metabolism
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Housing
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3 / deficiency
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3 / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone