A deficit in the serotonin 5-HT(1A) receptor has been found in panic and post-traumatic stress disorders, and genetic inactivation of the receptor results in an anxiety-like phenotype in mice on both the C57Bl6 and Swiss-Webster genetic backgrounds. Anxiety is associated with increased neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex and here we describe changes in glutamate and GABA uptake of C57Bl6 receptor null mice. Although these alterations were not present in Swiss-Webster null mice, we have previously reported reductions in GABA(A) receptor expression in these but not in C57Bl6 null mice. This demonstrates that inactivation of the 5-HT(1A) receptor elicits different and genetic background-dependent perturbations in the prefrontal cortex GABA/glutamate system. These perturbations can result in a change in the balance between excitation and inhibition, and indeed both C57Bl6 and Swiss-Webster null mice show signs of increased neuronal excitability. Because neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex controls the extent of response to anxiogenic stimuli, the genetic background-specific perturbations in glutamate and GABA neurotransmission in C57Bl6 and Swiss-Webster 5-HT(1A) receptor null mice may contribute to their shared anxiety phenotype. Our study shows that multiple strains of genetically altered mice could help us to understand the common and individual features of anxiety.