Stereo-selective activity of menthol on GABA(A) receptor

Chirality. 2009 May;21(5):525-30. doi: 10.1002/chir.20631.


Menthol is a naturally occurring compound, which has three chiral centers that define eight possible optically actives stereoisomers. Neuroactivity of menthol and related agents by affecting neuronal intracellular signaling or by modulation of neurotransmitter-gated currents has been reported. Furthermore, stereo-selectivity of menthol in its analgesic activity as well as in its sensory properties and other biological activities was also described. The present study is the first contribution to the description of stereo-selectivity of GABA(A) receptor against the most possible isomers of menthol, discussed in terms of their chirality. The results showed that only (+)-menthol, among the five stereoisomers analyzed, was active, stimulating in a dose-response manner the binding of an allosteric GABA(A) receptor ligand. Taking into account these results, and comparing them with those of some active phenolic compounds, it is strongly suggested that the existence of a relative spatial location of its substituents with respect to the ring (equatorial position of all substituents and (1S,2R,5S)-configuration) as well as the presence in the cyclic molecule of an aliphatic non polar group (isopropyl) with free rotation near to a polar group (hydroxyl) are crucial points to demonstrate activity on the receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chickens
  • Female
  • Male
  • Menthol / chemistry
  • Menthol / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / chemistry
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Menthol