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Mol Pharmacol. 2004 Oct;66(4):988-1003. Epub 2004 Jul 9.

Pentobarbital differentially modulates alpha1beta3delta and alpha1beta3gamma2L GABAA receptor currents.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA.


GABAA receptors are modulated by a variety of compounds, including the neurosteroids and barbiturates. Although the effects of barbiturates on alphabetagamma isoforms, thought to dominate phasic (synaptic) GABAergic inhibition, have been extensively studied, the effects of pentobarbital on kinetic properties of alphabetadelta GABAA receptors, thought to mediate tonic (extra- or perisynaptic) inhibition, are unknown. Using ultrafast drug delivery and single channel recording techniques, we demonstrate isoform-specific pentobarbital modulation of low-efficacy, minimally desensitizing alpha1beta3 currents and high-efficacy, rapidly desensitizing alpha1beta3gamma2L currents. Specifically, with saturating concentrations of GABA, pentobarbital substantially potentiated peak alpha1beta3delta receptor currents but failed to potentiate peak alpha1beta3gamma2L receptor currents. Also, pentobarbital had opposite effects on the desensitization of alpha1beta3delta (increased) and alpha1beta3gamma2L (decreased) receptor currents evoked by saturating GABA. Pentobarbital increased steady-state alpha1beta3delta receptor single channel open duration primarily by introducing a longer duration open state, whereas for alpha1beta3gamma2L receptor channels, pentobarbital increased mean open duration by increasing the proportion and duration of the longest open state. The data support previous suggestions that GABA may be a partial agonist at alphabetadelta isoforms, which may render them particularly sensitive to allosteric modulation. The remarkable increase in gating efficacy of alpha1beta3delta receptors suggests that alphabetadelta isoforms, and by inference tonic forms of inhibition, may be important targets for barbiturates.

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