Drug discrimination analysis of endogenous neuroactive steroids in rats

Eur J Pharmacol. 1993 Sep 14;241(2-3):237-43. doi: 10.1016/0014-2999(93)90208-y.


Rats were trained in a two-lever procedure to discriminate either pentobarbital (10 mg/kg), ethanol (1.5 g/kg), diazepam (1 mg/kg), or lorazepam (1 mg/kg) from the no-drug condition. Consistent with previous reports, rats in the pentobarbital, ethanol, and diazepam training conditions all showed complete dose-dependent generalization to pentobarbital under test conditions, but rats trained to discriminate lorazepam did not. Administration of the neuroactive steroids 3 alpha,21-dihydroxy-5 alpha-pregnan-20-one (3 alpha,5 alpha-THDOC) and 3 alpha-hydroxy-5 alpha-pregnan-20-one (3 alpha,5 alpha-P) also produced complete generalization in rats trained to discriminate pentobarbital, ethanol, and diazepam, but not in rats trained to discriminate lorazepam. These results further indicate the specificity of the lorazepam training condition and are consistent with neurochemical data indicating that these neuroactive steroids are similar to barbiturates in modulating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptors. In the context of previous data, the results from the four training groups suggest that the discriminative-stimulus effects of the neuroactive steroids are sedative/anxiolytic in nature and probably mediated through a non-benzodiazepine GABAA site.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Desoxycorticosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Desoxycorticosterone / pharmacology
  • Diazepam / pharmacology
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Generalization, Stimulus
  • Lorazepam / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Pentobarbital / pharmacology
  • Pregnanolone / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Ethanol
  • Desoxycorticosterone
  • tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone
  • Pregnanolone
  • Pentobarbital
  • Lorazepam
  • Diazepam