GABA(A) receptor signaling in the lateral septum regulates maternal aggression in mice

Behav Neurosci. 2009 Dec;123(6):1169-77. doi: 10.1037/a0017535.


Maternal aggression (maternal defense) is a fierce aggression produced by lactating females toward intruders that plays an important role in protection of vulnerable offspring. Enhancement of GABA(A) receptor signaling by benzodiazepines increases maternal aggression, and we recently found indirect evidence that lateral septum (LS) could be a key site where benzodiazepines elevate aggression. In this study, we directly tested the hypothesis that activation of GABA(A) receptors in LS would promote maternal aggression while inhibition of this receptor would decrease aggression. Site-directed injections to LS were made using the GABA(A) receptor antagonist, bicuculline (3-30 ng), or the GABA(A) receptor agonists, chlordiazepoxide, a benzodiazepine (2.5-5 microg), and muscimol (0.05-5 ng). Maternal aggression and other behavioral measures were then evaluated in lactating mice. Neither GABA(A) receptor agonist elevated aggression, which could reflect a ceiling effect. However, 7 ng of the GABA(A) receptor antagonist, bicuculline, in LS significantly decreased maternal aggression without altering other maternal behaviors or light-dark box performance, suggesting some GABA(A) receptor signaling in LS is required for full maternal aggression expression. Together, these results confirm a role for GABA(A) receptor signaling in LS in the regulation of maternal aggression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Bicuculline / administration & dosage
  • Catheters, Indwelling
  • Chlordiazepoxide / administration & dosage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • GABA Agents / administration & dosage
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Lactation / psychology
  • Maternal Behavior / drug effects
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Muscimol / administration & dosage
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Septal Nuclei / drug effects
  • Septal Nuclei / metabolism*
  • Septal Nuclei / physiology
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Video Recording


  • GABA Agents
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Muscimol
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Bicuculline