Cyclodextrins sequester neuroactive steroids and differentiate mechanisms that rate limit steroid actions

Br J Pharmacol. 2007 Jan;150(2):164-75. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0706973. Epub 2006 Dec 11.


Background and purpose: Neuroactive steroids are potent modulators of GABA(A) receptors and are thus of interest for their sedative, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant and anaesthetic properties. Cyclodextrins may be useful tools to manipulate neuroactive effects of steroids on GABA(A) receptors because cyclodextrins form inclusion complexes with at least some steroids that are active at the GABA(A) receptor, such as (3alpha,5alpha)-3-hydroxypregnan-20-one (3alpha5alphaP, allopregnanolone).

Experimental approach: To assess the versatility of cyclodextrins as steroid modulators, we investigated interactions between gamma-cyclodextrin and neuroactive steroids of different structural classes.

Key results: Both a bioassay based on electrophysiological assessment of GABA(A) receptor function and optical measurements of cellular accumulation of a fluorescent steroid analogue suggest that gamma-cyclodextrin sequesters steroids rather than directly influencing GABA(A) receptor function. Neither a 5beta-reduced A/B ring fusion nor a sulphate group at carbon 3 affected the presumed inclusion complex formation between steroid and gamma-cyclodextrin. Apparent dissociation constants for interactions between natural steroids and gamma-cyclodexrin ranged from 10-60 microM. Although gamma-cyclodextrin accommodates a range of natural and synthetic steroids, C(11) substitutions reduced inclusion complex formation. Using gamma-cyclodextrin to remove steroid not directly bound to GABA(A) receptors, we found that cellular retention of receptor-unbound steroid rate limits potentiation by 3alpha- hydroxysteroids but not inhibition by sulphated steroids.

Conclusions and implications: We conclude that gamma-cyclodextrins can be useful, albeit non-specific, tools for terminating the actions of multiple classes of naturally occurring neuroactive steroids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclodextrins / pharmacology*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Oocytes / drug effects
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Steroids / chemistry
  • Steroids / pharmacology*
  • Steroids / physiology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Xenopus laevis
  • gamma-Cyclodextrins / pharmacology


  • Cyclodextrins
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Steroids
  • gamma-Cyclodextrins
  • gamma-cyclodextrin