Characterization of the interaction of zopiclone with gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors

Mol Pharmacol. 2000 Oct;58(4):756-62. doi: 10.1124/mol.58.4.756.


Zopiclone is a cyclopyrrolone that is used clinically as a hypnotic. Although this drug is known to interact with neuronal gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors, its binding site(s) within the receptor oligomer has been reported to be distinct from that of the classical benzodiazepines. After photoaffinity labeling with flunitrazepam, receptors in rat cerebellar membranes showed differentially reduced affinity for flunitrazepam and zopiclone by 50- and 3-fold, respectively. Because histidine 101 of the alpha-subunit is a major site of photolabeling, we have made specific substitutions of this residue and studied the consequences on the binding properties of zopiclone and diazepam using recombinant alpha1beta2gamma2-receptors transiently expressed in tsA201 cells. Both compounds showed similar binding profiles with receptors containing mutated alpha-subunits, suggesting a similar interaction with the residue at position 101. At alpha1beta2gamma3-receptors, flunitrazepam affinity was dramatically decreased by approximately 36-fold, whereas the affinity for zopiclone was decreased only 3-fold, suggesting a differential contribution of the gamma-subunit to the binding pocket. Additionally, we used electrophysiological techniques to examine the contribution of the gamma-subunit isoform in the receptor oligomer to ligand recognition using recombinant receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Both compounds are agonists at alpha1beta2gamma2- and alpha1beta2gamma3-receptors, with flunitrazepam being more potent but less efficacious. In summary, these data suggest that histidine 101 of the alpha1-subunit plays a similar role in ligand recognition for zopiclone, diazepam, and flunitrazepam.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Azabicyclo Compounds
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrophysiology
  • Flunitrazepam / pharmacology
  • Histidine / genetics
  • Histidine / metabolism
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Photoaffinity Labels
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Azabicyclo Compounds
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Photoaffinity Labels
  • Piperazines
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • zopiclone
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Histidine
  • Flunitrazepam