Increased anxiety-like behaviors and mitochondrial dysfunction in mice with targeted mutation of the Bcl-2 gene: Further support for the involvement of mitochondrial function in anxiety disorders

Haim Einat, Peixiong Yuan, Husseini K. Manji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


There is growing evidence that anxiety disorders are associated with impairments of cellular plasticity and resilience. Paralleling these advances in our understanding of the neurobiologic underpinnings of anxiety disorders is the growing appreciation of the diverse functions that mitochondria play in regulating integrated CNS function. The emerging data suggest that mitochondrial Ca2+ sequestration has a key role in modulating the tone of synaptic plasticity in a variety of neuroanatomical regions, including those implicated in the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders. Furthermore, activation of peripheral mitochondrial benzodiazepine receptors resulted in reduced anxiety in rats. One of the major modulators of mitochondrial function is Bcl-2 proteins imbedded in the inner mitochondrial membrane. Bcl-2 overexpression increases mitochondria Ca2+ uptake capacity and resistance to Ca 2+-inhibition of respiration and upregulation of Bcl-2 increases maximal uptake capacity of mitochondria. We have, therefore, explored the significance of Bcl-2 in the association between mitochondrial function and affective disorders testing Bcl-2 heterozygote mice in models of affective and anxiety disorders. Mutant mice have reduced mitochondrial Bcl-2 levels, and although they have no gross behavioral abnormalities, they demonstrate a significant increase of anxiety-like behaviors. Bcl-2 heterozygote mice spent less time in the center of an open field, spent less time outside an enclosure in the "emergence test", were less likely to explore the transparent part of a black/white box or the open arms of an elevated plus maze compared with WT controls. Mutant mice did not differ from WT in measures of locomotion or in the forced swim test for depression-like behavior suggesting a specific effect on anxiety-like behaviors. Our study, therefore demonstrates that Bcl-2 may be a key factor in anxiety disorders and that its effects may possibly originate from its role in the mitochondria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-180
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 7 Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Affective disorders
  • Animal models
  • Knockout
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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