Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Neurosci. 2004 Jul 21;24(29):6521-30.

Brain steroidogenesis mediates ethanol modulation of GABAA receptor activity in rat hippocampus.

Author information

  • 1Department of Experimental Biology, Section of Neuroscience, University of Cagliari, 09123 Cagliari, Italy. esanna@unica.it


An interaction with the GABA type A (GABA(A)) receptor has long been recognized as one of the main neurochemical mechanisms underlying many of the pharmacological actions of ethanol. However, more recent data have suggested that certain behavioral and electrophysiological actions of ethanol are mediated by an increase in brain concentration of neuroactive steroids that results from stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Neuroactive steroids such as 3alpha-hydroxy-5alpha-pregnan-20-one (3alpha,5alpha-THP) are, in fact, potent and efficacious endogenous positive modulators of GABA(A) receptor function. Because neurosteroids can be synthesized de novo in the brain, we have investigated whether ethanol might affect both neurosteroid synthesis and GABA(A) receptor function in isolated rat hippocampal tissue. Here, we show that ethanol increases the concentration of 3alpha,5alpha-THP as well as the amplitude of GABA(A) receptor-mediated IPSCs recorded from CA1 pyramidal neurons in isolated hippocampal slices. These effects are shared by the neurosteroid precursor progesterone, the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor-selective agonist CB34, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate, all of which are known to increase the formation of neuroactive steroids in plasma and in the brain. The action of ethanol on GABA(A) receptor-mediated IPSC amplitude is biphasic, consisting of a rapid, direct effect on GABA(A) receptor activity and an indirect effect that appears to be mediated by neurosteroid synthesis. Furthermore, ethanol affects GABA(A) receptor activity through a presynaptic action, an effect that is not dependent on neurosteroid formation. These observations suggest that ethanol may modulate GABA(A) receptor function through an increase in de novo neurosteroid synthesis in the brain that is independent of the HPA axis. This novel mechanism may have a crucial role in mediating specific central effects of ethanol.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk