The discriminative stimulus effects of pentylenetetrazol as a model of anxiety: Recent developments

Marianna E. Jung, Harbans Lal, Michael B. Gatch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Pentylenetetrazol (PTZ), a GABAA receptor antagonist and prototypical anxiogenic drug, has been extensively utilized in animal models of anxiety. PTZ produces a reliable discriminative stimulus which is largely mediated by the GABAA receptor. Several classes of compounds can modulate the PTZ discriminative stimulus including 5-HT1A, 5-HT3, NMDA, glycine, and L-type calcium channel ligands. Spontaneous PTZ-lever responding is seen in trained rats during withdrawal from GABAA receptor compounds such as chlordiazepoxide and diazepam, and also ethanol, morphine, nicotine, cocaine, haloperidol, and phencyclidine. This effect is largely mediated by the GABAA receptor, which suggests that anxiety may be part of a generalized withdrawal syndrome mediated by the GABAA receptor. There are also important hormonal influences on PTZ. Corticosterone plays some role in mediation of its anxiogenic effects. There is a marked sex difference in response to the discriminative stimulus effects of PTZ, and estrogens appear to protect against its anxiogenic effects. Further work with the PTZ drug discrimination is warranted for characterization of anxiety during withdrawal, and the hormonal mechanisms of anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-439
Number of pages11
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2002


  • Corticosterone
  • Estrogen
  • Ethanol withdrawal
  • GABA antagonist
  • Pentylenetetrazol


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