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Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience



The β3 subunit of the γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptor (GABAA-R) has been reported to be important for palate formation, anesthetic action, and normal nervous system function. This subunit has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of Angelman syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. To further investigate involvement of this subunit, we previously produced mice with a global knockout of β3. However, developmental abnormalities, compensation, reduced viability, and numerous behavioral abnormalities limited the usefulness of that murine model. To overcome many of these limitations, a mouse line with a conditionally inactivated β3 gene was engineered.


Gene targeting and embryonic stem cell technologies were used to create mice in which exon 3 of the β3 subunit was flanked by loxP sites (i.e., floxed). Crossing the floxed β3 mice to a cre general deleter mouse line reproduced the phenotype of the previously described global knockout. Pan-neuronal knockout of β3 was achieved by crossing floxed β3 mice to Synapsin I-cre transgenic mice. Palate development was normal in pan-neuronal β3 knockouts but ~61% died as neonates. Survivors were overtly normal, fertile, and were less sensitive to etomidate. Forebrain selective knockout of β3 was achieved using α CamKII-cre transgenic mice. Palate development was normal in forebrain selective β3 knockout mice. These knockouts survived the neonatal period, but ~30% died between 15–25 days of age. Survivors had reduced reproductive fitness, reduced sensitivity to etomidate, were hyperactive, and some became obese.


Conditional inactivation of the β3 gene revealed novel insight into the function of this GABAA-R subunit. The floxed β3 knockout mice described here will be very useful for conditional knockout studies to further investigate the role of the β3 subunit in development, ethanol and anesthetic action, normal physiology, and pathophysiologic processes.

Source Citation

Ferguson, C., Hardy, S.L., Werner, D.F. et al. New insight into the role of the β3 subunit of the GABAA-R in development, behavior, body weight regulation, and anesthesia revealed by conditional gene knockout. BMC Neurosci 8, 85 (2007).


© 2007 Ferguson et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.




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