GABA(A) receptor subtypes: dissecting their pharmacological functions

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2001 Apr;22(4):188-94. doi: 10.1016/s0165-6147(00)01646-1.


The enhancement of GABA-mediated synaptic transmission underlies the pharmacotherapy of various neurological and psychiatric disorders. GABA(A) receptors are pluripotent drug targets that display an extraordinary structural heterogeneity: they are assembled from a repertoire of at least 18 subunits (alpha1-6, beta1-3, gamma1-3, delta, epsilon, theta, rho1-3). However, differentiating defined GABA(A) receptor subtypes on the basis of function has had to await recent progress in the genetic dissection of receptor subtypes in vivo. Evidence that the various actions of allosteric modulators of GABA(A) receptors, in particular the benzodiazepines, can be attributed to specific GABA(A) receptor subtypes will be discussed. Such discoveries could open up new avenues for drug development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Receptors, GABA-A* / classification
  • Receptors, GABA-A* / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A* / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A* / therapeutic use
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*


  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Benzodiazepines