The anticonvulsant and proconvulsant effects of alpha2-adrenoreceptor agonists are mediated by distinct populations of alpha2A-adrenoreceptors

Neuroscience. 2004;126(3):795-803. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2004.04.030.


The alpha2-adrenoreceptor (AR) is the most investigated noradrenergic receptor with regard to modulation of seizure activity. However, because of the complexity of multiple alpha2-AR subtypes and their distribution, the exact role of this receptor in modulating seizure activity is not clear. alpha2A- and alpha2C-ARs function as both autoreceptors (presynaptic) on noradrenergic neurons, where they regulate norepinephrine (NE) release, and as postsynaptic receptors on neurons that receive noradrenergic innervation, where they regulate the release of other neurotransmitters (heteroreceptor). The nonselective alpha2-AR agonist clonidine produced a proconvulsant effect on seizure susceptibility, while the selective alpha2A-AR agonist guanfacine was anticonvulsant. The effects of both alpha2-AR agonists were absent in alpha2a knockout mice, suggesting that the alpha2A-AR mediates the proconvulsant and anticonvulsant effect of alpha2-AR agonists on seizure susceptibility. To determine whether the alpha2-AR agonists were acting on inhibitory presynaptic autoreceptors to decrease NE release or on postsynaptic receptors on NE target neurons, the effects of clonidine and guanfacine were determined in dopamine beta-hydroxylase knockout (Dbh -/-) mice that lack NE. The anticonvulsant effect of guanfacine persisted in Dbh -/- mice, suggesting that guanfacine may act preferentially on alpha2A-postsynaptic receptors that regulate the action of NE on target neurons. In contrast, the proconvulsant effect of clonidine was lost in Dbh -/- mice, suggesting that clonidine may act on presynaptic autoreceptors to decrease NE release. We hypothesize that the alpha2A-presynaptic autoreceptor is responsible for the proconvulsant effect of alpha2-AR agonists, while the alpha2A-postsynaptic receptor is responsible for the anticonvulsant effect of alpha2-AR agonists. These data help to clarify the inconsistent effects of alpha2-AR agonists on seizure activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Autoreceptors / drug effects
  • Autoreceptors / metabolism
  • Clonidine / pharmacology
  • Convulsants / pharmacology*
  • Guanfacine / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Norepinephrine / deficiency
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Pentylenetetrazole / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / deficiency
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / metabolism*
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Seizures / physiopathology


  • Adra2a protein, mouse
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Autoreceptors
  • Convulsants
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Guanfacine
  • Clonidine
  • Pentylenetetrazole
  • Norepinephrine