GABA(A)/central benzodiazepine receptor and peripheral benzodiazepine receptor ligands as inducers of phenobarbital-inducible CYP2B and CYP3A

Biochem Pharmacol. 2004 Oct 1;68(7):1383-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2004.06.005.


A sequence critical for phenobarbital (PB) induction, the PB response unit (PBRU), situated upstream of the rat CYP2B1 and CYP2B2 genes, includes two nuclear receptor binding sites, NR1 and NR2. When NR1 and NR2 are mutated PB responsiveness is abolished. While no nuclear receptor for which PB is an agonist ligand has yet been identified, PB is a ligand of GABA(A) receptors and it can displace [(3)H] 1-(2-chlorophenyl)-N-methyl-N-(1-methylpropyl)-3-isoquinolinecarboxamide (PK 11195) from its binding site on the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR). We assessed CYP2B levels in primary rat hepatocytes following treatment with 10 ligands of either or both of these receptors. All compounds tested were found to be CYP2B1/CYP2B2 inducers and most were CYP3A inducers. Five had not previously been described as CYP2B1/CYP2B2 inducers: bicuculline, flunitrazepam, 4'-chlorodiazepam (Ro5-4864), N,N-dihexyl-2-(4-fluorophenyl)indole-3-acetamide (FGIN 1-27) and 7-(dimethylcarbamoyloxy)-6-phenylpyrrolo-[2,1-d][1,5]benzothiazepine (DCPPBT). Reporter gene analysis demonstrated that CYP2B induction by these agents and other PBR or GABA(A) receptor ligands is mediated through the PBRU and the NR1/NR2 sites, suggesting a molecular mechanism similar to that for PB induction. The potencies for PBRU-dependent induction by 11 ligands of PBR or the GABA(A) receptor was evaluated. FGIN-127, DCPPBT and PK 11195 exhibited EC(50) values for PBRU-dependent transcription activation about three orders of magnitude higher than the reported affinities of the PBR for these agents, arguing against the involvement of the PBR in PB induction. However the EC(50) values found for the agents tested encourage further investigation on the possible involvement of the GABA(A) receptor in PB induction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / biosynthesis*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • GABA Agents / pharmacology
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists*
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / enzymology
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Ligands
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / biosynthesis*
  • Phenobarbital / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / biosynthesis*


  • GABA Agents
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists
  • Isoquinolines
  • Ligands
  • Steroid Hydroxylases
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • steroid 16-beta-hydroxylase
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating
  • PK 11195
  • Phenobarbital