A new naturally occurring GABA(A) receptor subunit partnership with high sensitivity to ethanol

Nat Neurosci. 2007 Jan;10(1):40-8. doi: 10.1038/nn1813. Epub 2006 Dec 10.


According to the rules of GABA(A) receptor (GABA(A)R) subunit assembly, alpha4 and alpha6 subunits are considered to be the natural partners of delta subunits. These GABA(A)Rs are a preferred target of low, sobriety-impairing concentrations of ethanol. Here we demonstrate a new naturally occurring GABA(A)R subunit partnership: delta subunits of hippocampal interneurons are coexpressed and colocalized with alpha1 subunits, but not with alpha4, alpha6 or any other alpha subunits. Ethanol potentiates the tonic inhibition mediated by such native alpha1/delta GABA(A)Rs in wild-type and in alpha4 subunit-deficient (Gabra4(-/-)) mice, but not in delta subunit-deficient (Gabrd(-/-)) mice. We also ruled out any compensatory upregulation of alpha6 subunits that might have accounted for the ethanol effect in Gabra4(-/-) mice. Thus, alpha1/delta subunit assemblies represent a new neuronal GABA(A)R subunit partnership present in hippocampal interneurons, mediate tonic inhibitory currents and are highly sensitive to low concentrations of ethanol.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bicuculline / analogs & derivatives
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology
  • Brain / cytology
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Furosemide / pharmacology
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interneurons / drug effects*
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / radiation effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Sodium Potassium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors / pharmacology


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Isoenzymes
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Sodium Potassium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors
  • Ethanol
  • bicuculline methiodide
  • Furosemide
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 1
  • Bicuculline