Differential modulation of the gamma-aminobutyric acid type C receptor by neuroactive steroids

Mol Pharmacol. 1999 Oct;56(4):752-9.


Gamma-aminobutyric acid type C receptor channels (GABA(C)Rs) composed of rho subunits are pharmacologically distinct from GABA(A) receptor channels (GABA(A)Rs). This difference is illustrated by the insensitivity of homo-oligomeric rho(1) receptor channels to many known modulators of GABA(A)Rs, such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines. A number of endogenous metabolites of corticosterone and progesterone, known as neuroactive steroids, compose yet another class of compounds that can modulate GABA(A)Rs. Here, several neuroactive steroids are shown to also modulate the rho(1) receptor channel. 5alpha-Pregnane-3alpha,21-diol-20-one (allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone), 5alpha-pregnane-3alpha-ol-11, 20-dione (alphaxalone), and 5alpha-pregnane-3alpha-ol-20-one (allopregnanolone) potentiated the GABA-evoked currents from rho(1) receptor channels and concomitantly altered the deactivation kinetics by prolonging the decay time. In contrast, 5beta-pregnane-3alpha-ol-20-one (pregnanolone), 5beta-pregnane-3, 20-dione (5beta-dihydroprogesterone), and 5beta-pregnane-3alpha, 21-diol-20-one (tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone), all potentiators of GABA(A)Rs, inhibited the GABA-elicited currents of the rho(1) receptor channel. In comparison to GABA(A)Rs, the modulation of rho(1) receptor channels by these neuroactive compounds occurred with relatively high concentrations of the neuroactive steroids and was more prominent in the presence of low concentrations of GABA, equivalent to fractions of the EC(50) value of the rho(1) receptor channel. Structural comparison of these six neuroactive steroids reveals that the key parameter in determining the mode of modulation for the rho(1) receptor channel is the position of the hydrogen atom bound to the fifth carbon, imposing a trans- or cis-configuration in the backbone structure. This is the first demonstration of isomeric compounds that can differentially modulate the activity of the rho(1) receptor channel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 5-alpha-Dihydroprogesterone
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Desoxycorticosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Desoxycorticosterone / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Oocytes / drug effects
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Pregnanediones / pharmacology
  • Pregnanolone / pharmacology
  • Receptors, GABA / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P1 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Purinergic P1 / metabolism*
  • Xenopus laevis
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • GABA-C receptor
  • Pregnanediones
  • Receptors, GABA
  • Receptors, Purinergic P1
  • Desoxycorticosterone
  • tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • 5-alpha-Dihydroprogesterone
  • alphaxalone
  • Pregnanolone