Honokiol and magnolol selectively interact with GABAA receptor subtypes in vitro

Pharmacology. 2001 Jul;63(1):34-41. doi: 10.1159/000056110.


Honokiol and magnolol have been identified as modulators of the GABAA receptors in vitro. Our previous study suggested a possible selectivity of honokiol and magnolol on GABAA receptor subtypes. This possibility was examined in the current study by 3H-muscimol and 3H-flunitrazepam binding assays on various rat brain membrane preparations and human recombinant GABA(A) receptor subunit combinations expressed by the Sf-9/baculovirus system. Generally, honokiol and magnolol have a similar enhancing effect on (3)H-muscimol binding to various membrane preparations in nonsaturation binding assays. Honokiol and magnolol preferentially increased (3)H-muscimol binding to hippocampus compared to cortex and cerebellum (with a maximum enhancement of 400% of control). As for subunit combinations, honokiol and magnolol have a more potent enhancing effect on alpha2 subunit containing combinations (with a maximum enhancement of 400-450% of control). This action was independent of the gamma subunit. In saturation binding assays, magnolol affected either the number of binding sites (ca. 4-fold on alpha2 containing combinations) or the binding affinity (on alpha1 containing combinations) of (3)H-muscimol binding to various GABAA receptor subunit combinations. In contrast, honokiol increased only binding sites on alpha2beta3gamma2s and alpha2beta3 combinations, but both the number of binding sites and the binding affinity on alpha1beta2gamma2S and alpha(1)beta2 combinations. These results indicate that honokiol and magnolol have some selectivity on different GABAA receptor subtypes. The property of interacting with GABAA receptors and their selectivity could be responsible for the reported in vivo effects of these two compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biphenyl Compounds / chemistry
  • Biphenyl Compounds / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Cerebellum / drug effects
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology
  • Flunitrazepam / metabolism
  • GABA Agonists / metabolism
  • GABA Modulators / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insecta
  • Lignans*
  • Male
  • Muscimol / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Subunits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Tritium


  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • GABA Agonists
  • GABA Modulators
  • Lignans
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • magnolol
  • Tritium
  • honokiol
  • Muscimol
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase