Distinct functional characteristics of the lateral/basolateral amygdala GABAergic system in C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2006 Aug;318(2):629-40. doi: 10.1124/jpet.105.100552. Epub 2006 May 1.


It is generally understood that genetic mechanisms contribute to pathological anxiety and that C57BL/6 (B6) and DBA/2J (D2) mice, inbred strains differing markedly in their anxiety-like behaviors, may represent a model system to study these contributions. Because lateral/basolateral amygdala (BLA) GABA(A) receptors help regulate anxiety-like behaviors, we have tested the hypothesis that differences in receptor function/expression may be related to strain-specific differences in experimentally measured anxiety. First, we demonstrated that anxiety-like behaviors in two separate assays were more substantial in D2 mice. Then, using whole-cell electrophysiology of isolated neurons, we found that D2 BLA neurons expressed significantly greater GABA-gated responses than B6 BLA neurons. This was specific for GABA(A) receptors, because N-methyl-d-aspartate-gated responses were similar between strains. At the molecular level, this increased GABA(A) function was associated with higher levels of alpha 2 subunit mRNA expression in D2 BLA. Finally, to understand the ramifications of these functional and molecular biological differences, we examined both electrically evoked GABAergic responses and spontaneous synaptic currents using whole-cell recordings with in vitro slice preparations. Presynaptic GABAergic function was more robust in D2 compared with B6 slices. Together, our findings suggest that genetic mechanisms differentially represented in these two inbred mouse strains lead to robust differences in pre- and postsynaptic aspects of amygdala GABAergic function.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / genetics
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Brain Chemistry / genetics
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology
  • Cell Size
  • Electrophysiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Phenotype
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • RNA / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Species Specificity
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • RNA