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Neurochem Int. 2000 Aug-Sep;37(2-3):103-10.

Mechanisms of action of valproate: a commentatory.

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  • 1Norwegian Defence Research Institute, Kjeller.


Valproate, one of the major antiepileptic drugs used today, has besides its wide use in both generalized and partial epilepsies, several new approved indications including the treatment of bipolar disorders, neuropathic pain, and as a migraine prophylaxis. This wide spectrum of activities is reflected by several different mechanisms of action, which are discussed in this review. With regard to the antiepileptic effect of VPA, a special emphasis is put on the effect on the GABAergic system and the effect on enzymes like succinate semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSA-DH), GABA transaminase (GABA-T), and alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, related to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and thereby cerebral metabolism. In vitro studies have shown that VPA is a potent inhibitor of SSA-DH. In brain homogenates, GABA-T is inhibited at high concentrations only. Besides affecting the GABA-shunt, VPA might also inhibit the TCA cycle at the alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase step. The effect of VPA on excitatory neurotransmission and on excitatory membranes are mechanisms likely to be responsible for the 'mood-stabilizing' effect as well as in the treatment of migraine. GABA-mediated responses may be involved in neuropathic pain. But still there are many aspects of the mechanisms of action of VPA that remain unknown.

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