Rationale: The discriminative stimulus effects of zolpidem in squirrel monkeys trained at doses greater than or equal to 3.0 mg/kg differ from those of conventional benzodiazepines (BZs), but the extent to which these effects reflect the selectivity of zolpidem for GABA(A)/alpha(1) receptors is not known.
Objectives: The present study investigated the ability of GABA(A)/alpha(1)-preferring agonists to substitute for training doses of zolpidem greater than or equal to 3.0 mg/kg and the ability of GABA(A)/alpha(1)-preferring antagonists to block zolpidem's discriminative stimulus effects.
Methods: Squirrel monkeys were trained to discriminate intravenous injections of zolpidem (3.0 or 5.6 mg/kg) from saline and tested with BZ agonists differing in selectivity and efficacy at GABA(A)/alpha(1) receptors. Antagonism of the effects of zolpidem was studied using the GABA(A)/alpha(1)-preferring antagonists beta-carboline-3-carboxylate-t-butyl ester (beta-CCT) and 3-propyloxy-beta-carboline (3-PBC).
Results: Zolpidem and quazepam (GABA(A)/alpha(1)-preferring agonist) engendered full substitution for zolpidem, whereas CL 218,872 (GABA(A)/alpha(1)-preferring partial agonist) and the non-selective BZ agonists alprazolam and flunitrazepam engendered low and variable levels of zolpidem-lever responding (35-58%). Both beta-CCT and 3-PBC antagonized the discriminative stimulus effects of zolpidem in a surmountable fashion.
Conclusions: Our findings provide evidence for a key role of GABA(A)/alpha(1) receptors in the discriminative stimulus effects of zolpidem at relatively high training doses, and suggest that selectivity and relatively high efficacy at GABA(A)/alpha(1) receptors is required for BZ agonists to reproduce these discriminative stimulus effects.