Role of allopregnanolone in regulation of GABA(A) receptor plasticity during long-term exposure to and withdrawal from progesterone

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2001 Nov;37(1-3):81-90. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0173(01)00125-4.


Here we summarize recent data from our laboratory pertaining to the effects of fluctuations in the brain concentrations of the progesterone (PROG) metabolite allopregnanolone (3alpha,5alpha-TH PROG) on the expression and function of gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA(A)) receptors. The effects of long-term exposure to progesterone and of its sudden withdrawal on the activity of GABA(A) receptors and on the abundance of receptor subunit mRNAs were examined in cultured rat cerebellar granule cells and cortical neurons. The effects of a persistent reduction in the brain concentration of 3alpha,5alpha-TH PROG on GABA(A) receptor function and gene expression were examined in vivo in rats subjected to long-term administration of oral contraceptives. Our results demonstrate that long-lasting changes in the exposure of GABA(A) receptors to this PROG metabolite induce marked effects on receptor structure and function. These effects of 3alpha,5alpha-TH PROG appear to be mediated through modulation of GABA(A) receptor signaling mechanisms that control the expression of specific receptor subunit genes. Furthermore, the specific outcomes of such signaling appear to differ among neurons derived from different regions of the brain. Neuroactive steroids such as 3alpha,5alpha-TH PROG might thus exert differential actions on GABA(A) receptor plasticity in distinct neuronal cell populations, likely accounting for some of the physiological effects induced by these compounds.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Pregnanolone / metabolism*
  • Pregnanolone / pharmacology
  • Progesterone / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Time


  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Progesterone
  • Pregnanolone