Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Aug 16;91(17):8200-4.

Alcohol action on a neuronal membrane receptor: evidence for a direct interaction with the receptor protein.

Author information

  • 1Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


For almost a century, alcohols have been thought to produce their effects by actions on the membrane lipids of central nervous system neurons--the well known "lipid theory" of alcohol action. The rationale for this theory is the correlation of potency with oil/water or membrane/buffer partition coefficient. Although a number of recent studies have shown that alcohols can affect the function of certain neuronal neurotransmitter receptors, there is no evidence that the alcohols interact directly with these membrane proteins. In the present study, we report that inhibition of a neuronal neurotransmitter receptor, an ATP-gated ion channel, by a series of alcohols exhibits a distinct cutoff effect. For alcohols with a molecular volume of < or = 42.2 ml/mol, potency for inhibiting ATP-activated current was correlated with lipid solubility (order of potency: 1-propanol = trifluoroethanol > monochloroethanol > ethanol > methanol). However, despite increased lipid solubility, alcohols with a molecular volume of > or = 46.1 ml/mol (1-butanol, 1-pentanol, trichloroethanol, and dichloroethanol) were without effect on the ATP-activated current. The results suggest that alcohols inhibit the function of this neurotransmitter receptor by interacting with a small hydrophobic pocket on the receptor protein.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

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