A physiological role for GABAB receptors in the central nervous system

Nature. 1988 Mar 10;332(6160):156-8. doi: 10.1038/332156a0.


The role of GABA in synaptic transmission in the mammalian central nervous system is more firmly established than for any other neurotransmitter. With virtually every neuron studied, the synaptic action of GABA is mediated by bicuculline-sensitive GABAA receptors which selectively increase chloride conductance. However, it has been shown that GABA has a presynaptic inhibitory action on transmitter release that is insensiive to bicuculline and is selectively mimicked by baclofen. The receptors involved in this action are referred to as GABAB receptors, to distinguish them from the classic bicuculline-sensitive GABAA receptors. In hippocampal pyramidal cells an additional postsynaptic action of GABA and baclofen has been reported that is also insensitive to GABAA antagonists, and may be mediated by GABAB receptors on the postsynaptic neuron. This action of GABA and baclofen involves an increase in potassium conductance. Synaptic activation of pathways converging on hippocampal pyramidal cells results in a slow inhibitory postsynaptic potential which involves an increase in potassium conductance, and it has been suggested that GABAB receptors might be responsible for this synaptic potential. However, to establish convincingly that GABAB receptors are physiologically important in the central nervous system, a selective GABAB antagonist is required. Here we provide this missing evidence. Using the hippocampal slice preparation, we now report that the phosphonic acid derivative of baclofen, phaclofen, is a remarkably selective antagonist of both the postsynaptic action of baclofen and the bicuculline-resistant action of GABA, and that it selectively abolishes the slow inhibitory postsynaptic potential in pyramidal cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Baclofen / analogs & derivatives*
  • Baclofen / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Baclofen / pharmacology
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • GABA Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • phaclofen
  • Serotonin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Baclofen
  • Potassium
  • Bicuculline