NF-kappaB p50-deficient mice show reduced anxiety-like behaviors in tests of exploratory drive and anxiety

Behav Brain Res. 2004 Oct 5;154(2):577-84. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2004.03.026.


The ubiquitous transcription factor nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB plays a prominent role in regulation of inflammatory immune responses and in cell survival. Recently, it has been found to be active in neurons, and mice lacking NF-kappaB subunits p50 or p65 show deficits in specific cognitive tasks. Here we demonstrate a strikingly low level of anxiety-like behavior in the p50(-/-) mouse. In an open field, the mutant mice showed significantly less defecation, more rearing, and more time spent in the center compartment relative to wild type control mice. The p50(-/-) mice also spent more time investigating a novel object placed in the open field. On the elevated plus maze, p50(-/-) mice spent more time on the open arms and had increased numbers of open arm entries relative to wild type. In group housing conditions, they did not establish dominant-subordinate hierarchies, whereas wild type control animals did so, in part, by whisker barbering and conspecific allogrooming. In tests of general health, sensorimotor function, and daily activity on a circadian rhythm, p50(-/-) mice were normal. Thus, absence of the p50 subunit of the NF-kappaB transcription factor, which results in altered NF-kappaB transcriptional activity in cells throughout the body and brain, alters neuronal circuitry underlying manifestation of emotional behavior. The p50 subunit appears to play a role in normal expression of certain forms of anxiety.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / genetics
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Drive*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • NF-kappa B / deficiency*
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B p50 Subunit
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Time Factors


  • NF-kappa B
  • NF-kappa B p50 Subunit