Diazepam stimulates migration and phagocytosis of human neutrophils: possible contribution of peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors and intracellular calcium

Pharmacology. 2001 Jul;63(1):42-9. doi: 10.1159/000056111.


In isolated human neutrophils, diazepam (10 nmol/l to 10 micromol/l) concentration-dependently increased migration and phagocytosis. Diazepam-induced migration and phagocytosis were inhibited by the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR) antagonist PK11195 (10 micromol/l). The PBR agonist Ro5-4864 (10 nmol/l to 10 micromol/l) did not affect migration but slightly enhanced phagocytosis, while clonazepam, which binds to the central-type benzodiazepine receptors but has no affinity for PBRs, was ineffective on both parameters up to 10 micromol/l. Phagocytosis induced by diazepam or Ro5-4864 was inhibited by the Ca2+ channel blocker L-verapamil (10 micromol/l), which however did not affect the action of diazepam on migration. Competition binding experiments performed by fluorescent staining of PBRs showed that diazepam directly interacts with PBRs on human neutrophils. Both diazepam and Ro5-4864 (10 nmol/l to 10 micromol/l) induced a rise of intracellular free Ca2+ concentrations ([Ca2+]i), which was inhibited by PK11195 (10 micromol/l) and L-verapamil (10 micromol/l) and prevented by extracellular Ca2+ chelation with EGTA (5 mmol/l). In conclusion, experimental evidence indicates that in human neutrophils diazepam stimulates both migration and phagocytosis through activation of PBRs. Diazepam-induced [Ca2+]i changes depend on a PBR-operated, L-verapamil-sensitive increase in the plasma membrane permeability and subsequent extracellular Ca2+ entry, and contribute to diazepam-induced phagocytosis. On the contrary, the effect of diazepam on migration seems to occur through Ca2+ -independent mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte / drug effects*
  • Diazepam / pharmacology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects*
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Verapamil / pharmacology


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Isoquinolines
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Verapamil
  • Diazepam
  • Calcium
  • PK 11195