Molecular structure and physiological functions of GABA(B) receptors

Physiol Rev. 2004 Jul;84(3):835-67. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00036.2003.


GABA(B) receptors are broadly expressed in the nervous system and have been implicated in a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The cloning of the first GABA(B) receptor cDNAs in 1997 revived interest in these receptors and their potential as therapeutic targets. With the availability of molecular tools, rapid progress was made in our understanding of the GABA(B) system. This led to the surprising discovery that GABA(B) receptors need to assemble from distinct subunits to function and provided exciting new insights into the structure of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in general. As a consequence of this discovery, it is now widely accepted that GPCRs can exist as heterodimers. The cloning of GABA(B) receptors allowed some important questions in the field to be answered. It is now clear that molecular studies do not support the existence of pharmacologically distinct GABA(B) receptors, as predicted by work on native receptors. Advances were also made in clarifying the relationship between GABA(B) receptors and the receptors for gamma-hydroxybutyrate, an emerging drug of abuse. There are now the first indications linking GABA(B) receptor polymorphisms to epilepsy. Significantly, the cloning of GABA(B) receptors enabled identification of the first allosteric GABA(B) receptor compounds, which is expected to broaden the spectrum of therapeutic applications. Here we review current concepts on the molecular composition and function of GABA(B) receptors and discuss ongoing drug-discovery efforts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA-B / chemistry*
  • Receptors, GABA-B / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-B / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism


  • Receptors, GABA-B