Steroid anesthetics and naturally occurring analogs modulate the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor complex at a site distinct from barbiturates.

Article date: 1989/3/1

PubMed ID: 2539464

Journal name: The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics (ISSN: 0022-3565)


The steroid anesthetic alphaxalone and a series of naturally occurring analogs were compared in potency and efficacy with each other and the hypnotic barbiturate pentobarbital for interaction with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors:binding sites in rat brain membranes and functional activity in 36Cl- flux measurements with rat hippocampal slices. The steroids enhanced [3H]muscimol binding to GABA receptor sites, enhanced [3H] flunitrazepam binding to benzodiazepine receptors and inhibited [35S]t-butyl bicyclophosphorothionate binding to picrotoxin/convulsant binding sites on the GABA receptor-chloride channel complex. The same steroids that were active in modulating the binding of ligands to the various receptor sites on the GABA receptor complex at micromolar concentrations enhanced muscimol-stimulated 36Cl- flux in rat hippocampal slices. The steroids, like the barbiturates, increased the maximal response to muscimol but produced little or no potentiation of basal 36Cl- flux in the absence of GABA agonist. Although the effects of steroids and barbiturates were similar, separate sites of action were demonstrated conclusively by the observation that the two classes of compounds, when included together, gave additive or synergistic effects on binding, as well as on 36Cl- flux in the absence of GABA agonist. Structure-activity studies showed that the synthetic steroid anesthetic alphaxalone was the most potent compound tested, followed by the naturally occurring steroids tetrahydro-deoxycorticosterone, allo-tetrahydrocorticosterone, cis-androsterone and 5 alpha-androstan-17 beta-ol-3-one. The ability of several naturally occurring steroids to enhance GABA-mediated inhibition in the brain suggests the possibility of an endogenous steroid modulator of neuronal function.

Author List: Turner D M, Ransom R W, Yang J S, Olsen R W

Publication Types: Journal Article; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

Substances mentioned in the article: Anesthetics; Barbiturates; Bridged Bicyclo Compounds; Bridged Bicyclo Compounds, Heterocyclic; Chlorides; Pregnanediones; Receptors, GABA-A; Steroids; Muscimol; tert-butylbicyclophosphorothionate; alphaxalone;

Mesh terms: Anesthetics/pharmacology; Animals; Barbiturates/pharmacology; Bridged Bicyclo Compounds/metabolism; Bridged Bicyclo Compounds, Heterocyclic; Chlorides/metabolism; In Vitro Techniques; Male; Muscimol/metabolism; Pregnanediones/pharmacology; Rats; Rats, Inbred Strains; Receptors, GABA-A/drug effects; Steroids/pharmacology; Structure-Activity Relationship;

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