Neurosteroids: endogenous regulators of the GABA(A) receptor. Nat Rev Neurosci 6:565-575

Neurosciences Institute, Division of Pathology and Neuroscience, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee University, Dundee DD19SY, UK.
Nature reviews Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 31.43). 08/2005; 6(7):565-75. DOI: 10.1038/nrn1703
Source: PubMed


GABA(A) (gamma-aminobutyric acid type A) receptors mediate most of the 'fast' synaptic inhibition in the mammalian brain and are targeted by many clinically important drugs. Certain naturally occurring pregnane steroids can potently and specifically enhance GABA(A) receptor function in a nongenomic (direct) manner, and consequently have anxiolytic, analgesic, anticonvulsant, sedative, hypnotic and anaesthetic properties. These steroids not only act as remote endocrine messengers, but also can be synthesized in the brain, where they modify neuronal activity locally by modulating GABA(A) receptor function. Such 'neurosteroids' can influence mood and behaviour in various physiological and pathophysiological situations, and might contribute to the behavioural effects of psychoactive drugs.

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    • "Published observations are in agreement with our findings. First, THDOC failed to inhibit labeling of an etomidate photoanalog in GABA A receptors (Li et al., 2009Li et al., , 2010and second, the b 2 N265 residue is not implicated in the modulation of the receptor by neurosteroids (Belelli and Lambert, 2005Nishikawa et al., 2002). Each GABA A receptor pentamer contains two aþ subunit interfaces that could contribute to the modulatory effect (Fig. 1). "
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    ABSTRACT: GABAA receptors are the major inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors in the brain and are the target for many clinically important drugs. Among the many modulatory compounds are also the intravenous anesthetics propofol and etomidate, and barbiturates. The mechanism of receptor modulation by these compounds is of mayor relevance. The site of action of these compounds has been located to subunit interfaces in the intra-membrane region of the receptor. In α1β2γ2 GABAA receptors there are five such interfaces, two β+/α- and one each of α+/β-, α+/γ- and γ+/β-subunit interfaces. We have used reporter mutations located in the second trans-membrane region in different subunits to probe the effects of changes at these subunit interfaces on modulation by propofol, etomidate and pentobarbital. We provide evidence for the fact that each of these compounds either modulates through a different set of subunit interfaces or through the same set of subunit interfaces to a different degree. As a GABAA receptor pentamer harbors two β+/α-subunit interfaces, we used concatenated receptors to dissect the contribution of individual interfaces and show that only one of these interfaces is important for receptor modulation by etomidate.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Neuropharmacology
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    • "Accordingly, ALLO can play a dual role in the nervous system. First, like progesterone (via classical steroid receptors) from which it is derived, ALLO can exert a protective and regenerative role on the brain and the spinal cord ([37] for review, [41] [42] [43] [44] [45]). "
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    ABSTRACT: Impaired biosynthesis of Allopregnanolone (ALLO), a brain endogenous neurosteroid, has been associated with numerous behavioral dysfunctions, which range from anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors to aggressive behavior and changes in responses to contextual fear conditioning in rodent models of emotional dysfunction. Recent animal research also demonstrates a critical role of ALLO in social isolation. Although there are likely aspects of perceived social isolation that are uniquely human, there is also continuity across species. Both human and animal research show that perceived social isolation (which can be defined behaviorally in animals and humans) has detrimental effects on physical health, such as increased hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) activity, decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression, and increased depressive behavior. The similarities between animal and human research suggest that perceived social isolation (loneliness) may also be associated with a reduction in the synthesis of ALLO, potentially by reducing BDNF regulation and increasing HPA activity through the hippocampus, amygdala, and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), especially during social threat processing. Accordingly, exogenous administration of ALLO (or ALLO precursor, such as pregnenolone), in humans may help alleviate loneliness. Congruent with our hypothesis, exogenous administration of ALLO (or ALLO precursors) in humans has been shown to improve various stress-related disorders that show similarities between animals and humans i.e., post-traumatic stress disorders, traumatic brain injuries. Because a growing body of evidence demonstrates the benefits of ALLO in socially isolated animals, we believe our ALLO hypothesis can be applied to loneliness in humans, as well.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Medical Hypotheses
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    • "Hence, depending on the subunit composition, GABA-modulatory effects of physiological levels of the neurosteroid are not uniformly experienced throughout the CNS, or even within the same brain region. In addition, these modulatory effects are determined by the phosphorylation status of the GABAA receptor, or associated proteins, and by local steroid metabolism [31] [49] [54] [193]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system, plays a key role in the regulation of neuronal transmission throughout the brain, affecting numerous physiological and psychological processes. Changes in GABA levels provoke disbalance between excitatory and inhibitory signals, and are involved in the development of numerous neuropsychiatric disorders. GABA exerts its effects via ionotropic (GABAA) and metabotropic (GABAB) receptors. Both types of receptors are targeted by many clinically important drugs that affect GABAergic function and are widely used in the treatment of anxiety disorder, epilepsy, insomnia, spasticity, aggressive behaviour, and other pathophysiological conditions and diseases. Of particular importance are drugs that modulate GABAA receptor complex, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, neuroactive steroids, intravenous and inhalational anesthetics, and ethanol. Molecular interactions and subsequent pharmacological effects induced by drugs acting at GABAA receptors are extremely complex due to structural heterogeneity of GABAA receptors and existence of numerous allosterically interconnected binding sites and various chemically distinct ligands that are able to bound to them. There is a growing interest in the development and application of subtype-selective drugs that will achieve specific therapeutic benefits without undesirable side effects. The aim of this review is to briefly summarize the key pharmacological properties of GABA receptors, and to present selected novel findings with the potential to open new perspectives in the development of more effective therapeutic strategies.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Current pharmaceutical design
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