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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2011 Oct 4;2:44. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2011.00044. eCollection 2011.

Neurosteroids and GABA-A Receptor Function.

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  • 1Section of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Clinical Science, Umeå Neurosteroid Research Center, Umeå University Umeå, Sweden.


Neurosteroids represent a class of endogenous steroids that are synthesized in the brain, the adrenals, and the gonads and have potent and selective effects on the GABAA-receptor. 3α-hydroxy A-ring reduced metabolites of progesterone, deoxycorticosterone, and testosterone are positive modulators of GABA(A)-receptor in a non-genomic manner. Allopregnanolone (3α-OH-5α-pregnan-20-one), 5α-androstane-3α, 17α-diol (Adiol), and 3α5α-tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (3α5α-THDOC) enhance the GABA-mediated Cl(-) currents acting on a site (or sites) distinct from the GABA, benzodiazepine, barbiturate, and picrotoxin binding sites. 3α5α-P and 3α5α-THDOC potentiate synaptic GABA(A)-receptor function and activate δ-subunit containing extrasynaptic receptors that mediate tonic currents. On the contrary, 3β-OH pregnane steroids and pregnenolone sulfate (PS) are GABA(A)-receptor antagonists and induce activation-dependent inhibition of the receptor. The activities of neurosteroid are dependent on brain regions and types of neurons. In addition to the slow genomic action of the parent steroids, the non-genomic, and rapid actions of neurosteroids play a significant role in the GABA(A)-receptor function and shift in mood and memory function. This review describes molecular mechanisms underlying neurosteroid action on the GABA(A)-receptor, mood changes, and cognitive functions.


GABAA-receptor; THDOC; allopregnanolone; cognition; mood; pregnenolone sulfate; premenstrual dysphoric disorder

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