Failure of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid both to increase neuroactive steroid concentrations in adrenalectomized-orchiectomized rats and to induce tolerance to its steroidogenic effect in intact animals

Brain Res. 2004 Jun 25;1012(1-2):160-8. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2004.03.059.


Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), a drug proposed in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, increases the cerebrocortical and plasma concentrations of the neuroactive steroids allopregnanolone and allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (THDOC). In the present study, we examined the role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the effect of GHB by measuring the concentrations of these steroids in the brain and plasma of adrenalectomized-orchiectomized (Adx-Orx) rats. The acute administration of GHB (500 mg/kg, i.p.) induced in 30 min an increase in the concentrations of allopregnanolone, THDOC and their precursors pregnenolone and progesterone in different brain areas (cerebral cortex, hypothalamus and cerebellum) and plasma of sham-operated rats but had no effect on the concentrations of these compounds in Adx-Orx rats, suggesting that activation of the HPA axis mediates the effect of GHB on brain and plasma concentrations of neuroactive steroids. Moreover, we evaluated whether repeated exposure of GHB induces tolerance to its steroidogenic effects. Chronic administration of GHB (500 mg/kg, i.p., twice a day for 10 days) to intact animals failed to affect the levels of progesterone, allopregnanolone, or THDOC measured 3 or 48 h after the last drug administration, whereas a challenge injection of GHB or ethanol was still able to increase the concentrations of these steroids in brain and plasma. These results indicate that repeated exposure to GHB fails to induce tolerance or cross-tolerance to the steroidogenic action of GHB or ethanol, respectively.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenalectomy*
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Drug Tolerance / physiology
  • Hydroxybutyrates / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Orchiectomy*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Steroids / blood
  • Steroids / metabolism*


  • Hydroxybutyrates
  • Steroids
  • 4-hydroxybutyric acid