Discriminative stimulus effects of drugs acting at GABA(A) receptors: differential profiles and receptor selectivity

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999 Oct;64(2):269-73. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(99)00081-7.


The GABA(A) receptor complex contains a number of binding sites at which a variety of psychotropic drugs, including benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and some neurosteroids, act to potentiate or inhibit the effect of the transmitter. Many studies have reported that these drugs can produce discriminative stimulus actions, but the cueing effects of compounds acting at different sites to enhance the effects of GABA are not identical. The discriminative stimulus effects of benzodiazepines have been analyzed in detail, and there is also a great deal of information available on the effects of nonbenzodiazepine compounds acting at BZ(omega) recognition sites, which form part of the GABA(A) receptor complex. Of particular interest are compounds with selectivity for the BZ1(omega1) receptor subtype including zolpidem, zaleplon, and CI 218,872. BZ1(omega1)-selective drugs substitute for the discriminative stimulus produced by chlordiazepoxide only partially and at sedative doses. This is consistent with the view that sedative effects of BZ(omega) receptor agonists are mediated by the BZ1(omega1) receptor subtype, whereas the discriminative stimulus produced by chlordiazepoxide may be produced by activity at the BZ2(omega2) subtype. Analysis of this hypothesis is complicated by the variety of levels of intrinsic activity shown by different drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*


  • Receptors, GABA-A