Novel GABA receptor pesticide targets

Pestic Biochem Physiol. 2015 Jun;121:22-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pestbp.2014.11.006. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


The γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor has four distinct but overlapping and coupled targets of pesticide action importantly associated with little or no cross-resistance. The target sites are differentiated by binding assays with specific radioligands, resistant strains, site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modeling. Three of the targets are for non-competitive antagonists (NCAs) or channel blockers of widely varied chemotypes. The target of the first generation (20th century) NCAs differs between the larger or elongated compounds (NCA-IA) including many important insecticides of the past (cyclodienes and polychlorocycloalkanes) or present (fiproles) and the smaller or compact compounds (NCA-IB) highly toxic to mammals and known as cage convulsants, rodenticides or chemical threat agents. The target of greatest current interest is designated NCA-II for the second generation (21st century) of NCAs consisting for now of isoxazolines and meta-diamides. This new and uniquely different NCA-II site apparently differs enough between insects and mammals to confer selective toxicity. The fourth target is the avermectin site (AVE) for allosteric modulators of the chloride channel. NCA pesticides vary in molecular surface area and solvent accessible volume relative to avermectin with NCA-IBs at 20-22%, NCA-IAs at 40-45% and NCA-IIs at 57-60%. The same type of relationship relative to ligand-docked length is 27-43% for NCA-IBs, 63-71% for NCA-IAs and 85-105% for NCA-IIs. The four targets are compared by molecular modeling for the Drosophila melanogaster GABA-R. The principal sites of interaction are proposed to be: pore V1' and A2' for NCA-IB compounds; pore A2', L6' and T9' for NCA-IA compounds; pore T9' to S15' in proximity to M1/M3 subunit interface (or alternatively an interstitial site) for NCA-II compounds; and M1/M3, M2 interfaces for AVE. Understanding the relationships of these four binding sites is important in resistance management and in the discovery and use of safe and effective pest control agents.

Keywords: GABA receptor; Insecticide; Isoxazoline; Meta-diamide; Radioligand.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Pesticides / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, GABA / metabolism*


  • GABA Antagonists
  • Pesticides
  • Receptors, GABA