The neurosteroid 3 alpha, 5 apha-THP has antiseizure and possible neuroprotective effects in an animal model of epilepsy

Brain Res. 1995 Oct 23;696(1-2):113-20. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(95)00793-p.


Some anticonvulsant drugs may suppress seizures by enhancing activity of GABAergic systems. Progesterone (P)'s anti-convulsant and neuroprotective effects may be due to the steroid's actions on GABAA-benzodiazepine receptor complexes (GBRs) rather than intracellular progestin receptors (PRs), as many P metabolites have a greater effect in vitro on benzodiazepine binding and Cl-flux than P, but poor affinity for PRs. If P's actions are due to metabolism to a progestin more potent at GBRs, then systemic administration of one of those P metabolites should also prevent CNS damage. To test this hypothesis male rats were implanted with a bipolar electrode, aimed above the perforant pathway. Experimental animals received the 5 alpha-reduced P metabolite most effective at GBRs, 5 alpha-pregnan-3 alpha-ol-20-one (3 alpha,5 alpha-THP) 2.5 mg/kg s.c., 3 h prior to perforant pathway stimulation, while control animals received sesame oil vehicle. The duration of chewing and drooling and the incidence of wet dog shakes, partial and full seizures were reduced during perforant pathway stimulation in animals pre-treated with 3 alpha,5 alpha-THP compared to vehicle. Two weeks later, animals pre-treated with 3 alpha,5 alpha-THP had shorter latencies and distances to find a hidden platform in a Morris Water maze task. 3 alpha,5 alpha-THP pre-treatment also reduced damage to CA1 and CA3 layers of the hippocampus and preserved the number of neurons in the hilar region. These data indicate that the neurosteroid metabolite of P, 3 alpha,5 alpha-THP, can have anticonvulsant and may have neuroprotective effects in an animal model of epilepsy. Further, these data suggest that the mechanism of P's protective and anticonvulsant effects may be via GBRs rather than PRs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Epilepsy / chemically induced
  • Epilepsy / pathology
  • Epilepsy / prevention & control*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Pregnanolone / pharmacology*
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Progesterone
  • Pregnanolone