The effects of neurosteroids on picrotoxin-, bicuculline- and NMDA-induced seizures, and a hypnotic effect of ethanol

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2000 Oct;67(2):345-53. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(00)00369-5.


The effects of intraperitoneally (IP) or intracerebroventricularly (ICV) administered neurosteroids [allopregnanolone (AP); 5beta-tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (5beta-THDOC); dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS); pregnenolone sulfate (PS)] and their precursors [progesterone (PROG), pregnanedione (PREG)] on N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-, picrotoxin (PTX)- and bicuculline (BIC)-induced seizures and ethanol-induced sleep were studied in mice. It was found that IP injections of (+)MK-801 most potently antagonized NMDA-, PTX- and BIC-induced seizures, as compared to diazepam (DZP), PROG and PREG. Both precursors of neurosteroids appeared only marginally active in the applied models of convulsions. ICV injections of AP selectively blocked PTX- and BIC-induced seizures, whereas 5beta-THDOC and (+)MK-801 also antagonized NMDA-induced convulsions. ICV administered DHEAS induced seizures in a dose-dependent way. ICV injections of AP and midazolam shortened the latency and prolonged the duration of sleep induced by IP injections of ethanol (5.0 g/kg). On the contrary, DHEAS and PS significantly reduced the hypnotic-like effect of ethanol. The obtained results suggest that neurosteroids may modulate in an agonistic (AP, 5beta-THDOC), or antagonistic way (PS, DHEAS), the GABA(A) receptor complex functions. Some of them (5beta-THDOC) also interact with NMDA receptors. AP appeared to be the most selectively acting compound, with its profile of action fully comparable to that of midazolam. AP also enhanced the hypnotic effect of ethanol, pointing out to the propensity to interact with centrally depressant agents. These findings, together with the possibility of conversion of some neurosteroids in the brain to other steroid hormones (testosterone, estradiol and aldosterone), indicate the limitations of their use for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bicuculline / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / administration & dosage*
  • Convulsants / administration & dosage*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / pharmacology
  • Desoxycorticosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Desoxycorticosterone / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Male
  • Mice
  • N-Methylaspartate / administration & dosage
  • Picrotoxin / administration & dosage
  • Pregnanediones / pharmacology
  • Pregnanolone / pharmacology
  • Pregnenolone / pharmacology
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Seizures / chemically induced*
  • Seizures / prevention & control
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Steroids / pharmacology*


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Convulsants
  • Pregnanediones
  • Steroids
  • pregnenolone sulfate
  • Picrotoxin
  • Ethanol
  • Desoxycorticosterone
  • tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Pregnenolone
  • Pregnanolone
  • Bicuculline