Genetic ablation of the GluK4 kainate receptor subunit causes anxiolytic and antidepressant-like behavior in mice

Justin S. Catches, Jian Xu, Anis Contractor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


There is a clear link between dysregulation of glutamatergic signaling and mood disorders. Genetic variants in the glutamate receptor gene GRIK4, which encodes the kainate receptor subunit GluK4, alter the susceptibility for depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Here we demonstrate that Grik4 -/- mice have reduced anxiety and an antidepressant-like phenotype. In the elevated zero-maze, a test for anxiety and risk taking behavior, Grik4 -/- mice spent significantly more time exploring the open areas of the maze. In anxiogenic tests of marble-burying and novelty-induced suppression of feeding, anxiety-like behavior was consistently reduced in knockout animals. In the forced swim test, a test of learned helplessness that is used to determine depression-like behavior, knockout mice demonstrated significantly less immobility suggesting that Grik4 ablation has an antidepressant-like effect. Finally, in the sucrose preference test, a test for anhedonia in rodents, Grik4 -/- mice demonstrated increased sucrose preference. Expression of the GluK4 receptor subunit in the forebrain is restricted to the CA3 region of the hippocampus and dentate gyrus regions where KARs are known to modulate synaptic plasticity. We tested whether Grik4 ablation had effects on mossy fiber (MF) plasticity and found there to be a significant impairment in LTP likely through a loss of KAR modulation of excitability of the presynaptic MF axons. These studies demonstrate a clear anxiolytic and antidepressant phenotype associated with ablation of Grik4 and a parallel disruption in hippocampal plasticity, providing support for the importance of this receptor subunit in mood disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-414
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 17 2012


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • GluK4
  • Hippocampus
  • Kainate receptor
  • Mossy fiber

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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