Background: Compounds targeting the benzodiazepine binding site of the GABAA-R are widely prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders, epilepsy, and insomnia as well as for pre-anesthetic sedation and muscle relaxation. It has been hypothesized that these various pharmacological effects are mediated by different GABAA-R subtypes. If this hypothesis is correct, then it may be possible to develop compounds targeting particular GABAA-R subtypes as, for example, selective anxiolytics with a diminished side effect profile. The pyrazolo[1,5-a]-pyrimidine ocinaplon is anxioselective in both preclinical studies and in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, but does not exhibit the selectivity between alpha1/alpha2-containing receptors for an anxioselective that is predicted by studies using transgenic mice.
Results: We hypothesized that the pharmacological properties of ocinaplon in vivo might be influenced by an active biotransformation product with greater selectivity for the alpha2 subunit relative to alpha1. One hour after administration of ocinaplon, the plasma concentration of its primary biotransformation product, DOV 315,090, is 38% of the parent compound. The pharmacological properties of DOV 315,090 were assessed using radioligand binding studies and two-electrode voltage clamp electrophysiology. We report that DOV 315,090 possesses modulatory activity at GABAA-Rs, but that its selectivity profile is similar to that of ocinaplon.
Conclusion: These findings imply that DOV 315,090 could contribute to the action of ocinaplon in vivo, but that the anxioselective properties of ocinaplon cannot be readily explained by a subtype selective effect/action of DOV 315,090. Further inquiry is required to identify the extent to which different subtypes are involved in the anxiolytic and other pharmacological effects of GABAA-R modulators.