Anti-Tremor Action of Subtype Selective Positive Allosteric Modulators of GABAA Receptors in a Rat Model of Essential Tremors

Cerebellum. 2020 Apr;19(2):265-274. doi: 10.1007/s12311-020-01106-w.


Essential tremor (ET) is among the most prevalent neurological disorders and the most common cause of abnormal tremors. It is characterized by postural and action tremors ranging from 4 to 12 Hz. The treatments of choice for ET are propranolol and primidone, but their use is associated with adverse effects like hypotension, depression, and cognitive impairments. Benzodiazepines, which nonselectively enhances the effect of GABA at the GABAA α1/2/3/5 receptors, have been shown to be effective in treating ET. Their use, however, is limited due to sedation, ataxia, tolerance development and memory impairment. Sedation and ataxia are attributed to the activity at the α1 subunit while cognitive impairment is ascribed to the action on the α5 subunit of the GABAA receptors. It can be hypothesized that subtype selective GABAA receptor modulators only acting via the α2, and α3 subunits may have an improved side effect profile while retaining the beneficial effects. Here, we have evaluated the effect of subtype selective GABAA α2/3/5 receptor modulators on harmaline-induced tremors in rats. The tremors were automatically quantified in tremor boxes. We show that the GABAA α2/3 subtype selective modulator NS16085 significantly and dose-dependently inhibits harmaline-induced tremors in rats, indicating that potentiation of α2- and α3-containing GABAA receptors is sufficient to ameliorate harmaline-induced tremors. These results provide the first support for a therapeutic role of a subtype selective GABAA α2/3 modulator in the treatment of ET.

Keywords: GABA; Harmaline; Tremors.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzimidazoles / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / toxicity
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Essential Tremor / chemically induced
  • Essential Tremor / metabolism*
  • GABA Agents / pharmacology*
  • Harmaline / toxicity
  • Male
  • Pyridines / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*


  • 4-chloro-3-(6-(5-(2-hydroxypropan-2-yl)-1H-1,3-benzodiazol-1-yl)pyridin-2-yl)benzonitrile
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • GABA Agents
  • Pyridines
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Harmaline