GABA A receptors: subtypes provide diversity of function and pharmacology

Neuropharmacology. 2009 Jan;56(1):141-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.07.045. Epub 2008 Aug 8.


This mini-review attempts to update experimental evidence on the existence of GABA(A) receptor pharmacological subtypes and to produce a list of those native receptors that exist. GABA(A) receptors are chloride channels that mediate inhibitory neurotransmission. They are members of the Cys-loop pentameric ligand-gated ion channel (LGIC) superfamily and share structural and functional homology with other members of that family. They are assembled from a family of 19 homologous subunit gene products and form numerous receptor subtypes with properties that depend upon subunit composition, mostly hetero-oligomeric. These vary in their regulation and developmental expression, and importantly, in brain regional, cellular, and subcellular localization, and thus their role in brain circuits and behaviors. We propose several criteria for including a receptor hetero-oligomeric subtype candidate on a list of native subtypes, and a working GABA(A) receptor list. These criteria can be applied to all the members of the LGIC superfamily. The list is divided into three categories of native receptor subtypes: "Identified", "Existence with High Probability", and "Tentative", and currently includes 26 members, but will undoubtedly grow, with future information. This list was first presented by Olsen & Sieghart (in press).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chloride Channels / drug effects
  • GABA Agents / pharmacology*
  • Ion Channel Gating / drug effects*
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / classification*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology*


  • Chloride Channels
  • GABA Agents
  • Receptors, GABA-A