The anxiolytic-like effects of the neurosteroid allopregnanolone: interactions with GABA(A) receptors

Eur J Pharmacol. 1997 Apr 23;325(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(97)00096-4.


The neurosteroid 3alpha-hydroxy-5alpha-pregnan-20-one (allopregnanolone) was administered systemically to rats which were tested in the Geller-Seifter conflict paradigm, an established animal model of anxiety. Allopregnanolone was found to produce significant anxiolytic-like effects at a dose of 8 mg/kg. When three ligands that function at different sites on the gamma-aminobutyric acid/benzodiazepine receptor-chloride ionophore complex (GABA(A) receptors) were examined in conjunction with allopregnanolone, the anti-conflict effects of allopregnanolone were effectively reversed only by the benzodiazepine receptor inverse agonist RO15-4513 (ethyl-8-azido-5,6-dihydro-5-methyl-6-oxo-4H-imidazo [1,5-alpha]-[1,4]benzodiazepine-3-carboxylate). Since this inverse agonist has been reported to inhibit the GABA(A)-activated chloride flux in neuronal membranes, it is likely that the stimulation of the chloride channel in GABA(A) receptors is an important component of the effects of allopregnanolone. In contrast, the benzodiazepine receptor antagonist flumazenil (ethyl-8-fluoro-5,6-dihydro-5-methyl-6-oxo-4H-imidazo [1,5-alpha]-[1,4]benzodiazepine-3-carboxylate) did not block the anxiolytic-like actions of allopregnanolone, indicating that allopregnanolone does not bind at the benzodiazepine site directly. Isopropylbicyclophosphate, which binds at the picrotoxinin site on the GABA(A) receptors and blocks the behavioral actions of ethanol, also dose-dependently reversed the anti-conflict effect of this neurosteroid. The results suggest that allopregnanolone may be working either at a site specific for the benzodiazepine receptor inverse agonist RO15-4513 or at the picrotoxinin site to produce its potent anxiolytic-like behavioral effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affinity Labels / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Azides / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology
  • Binding Sites
  • Chloride Channels / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Flumazenil / pharmacology
  • GABA Modulators / pharmacology
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / pharmacology
  • Pregnanolone / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*


  • Affinity Labels
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Azides
  • Chloride Channels
  • GABA Modulators
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Flumazenil
  • Ro 15-4513
  • Pregnanolone