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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 May 30;103(22):8540-5. Epub 2006 May 12.

Low-dose alcohol actions on alpha4beta3delta GABAA receptors are reversed by the behavioral alcohol antagonist Ro15-4513.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1735, USA.


Although it is now more than two decades since it was first reported that the imidazobenzodiazepine Ro15-4513 reverses behavioral alcohol effects, the molecular target(s) of Ro15-4513 and the mechanism of alcohol antagonism remain elusive. Here, we show that Ro15-4513 blocks the alcohol enhancement on recombinant "extrasynaptic" alpha4/6beta3delta GABA(A) receptors at doses that do not reduce the GABA-induced Cl(-) current. At low ethanol concentrations (< or =30 mM), the Ro15-4513 antagonism is complete. However, at higher ethanol concentrations (> or =100 mM), there is a Ro15-4513-insensitive ethanol enhancement that is abolished in receptors containing a point mutation in the second transmembrane region of the beta3 subunit (beta3N265M). Therefore, alpha4/6beta3delta GABA receptors have two distinct alcohol modulation sites: (i) a low-dose ethanol site present in alpha4/6beta3delta receptors that is antagonized by the behavioral alcohol antagonist Ro15-4513 and (ii) a site activated at high (anesthetic) alcohol doses, defined by mutations in membrane-spanning regions. Receptors composed of alpha4beta3N265Mdelta subunits that lack the high-dose alcohol site show a saturable ethanol dose-response curve with a half-maximal enhancement at 16 mM, close to the legal blood alcohol driving limit in most U.S. states (17.4 mM). Like in behavioral experiments, the alcohol antagonist effect of Ro15-4513 on recombinant alpha4beta3delta receptors is blocked by flumazenil and beta-carboline-ethyl ester (beta-CCE). Our findings suggest that ethanol/Ro15-4513-sensitive GABA(A) receptors are important mediators of behavioral alcohol effects.

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