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Epilepsy Res. 1995 Sep;22(1):1-11.

Effects of anticonvulsant drug gabapentin on the enzymes in metabolic pathways of glutamate and GABA.

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  • 1Department of Biotechnology, Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research, Division of Warner-Lambert Co., Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA.


Gabapentin is a novel anticonvulsant drug. The anticonvulsant mechanism of gabapentin is not known. Based on the amino acid structure of gabapentin we explored its possible effects on glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) metabolism in brain as they may relate to its anticonvulsant mechanisms of action. Gabapentin was tested for its effects on seven enzymes in the metabolic pathways of these two neurotransmitters: alanine aminotransferase (AL-T), aspartate aminotransferase (AS-T), GABA aminotransferase (GABA-T), branched-chain amino acid aminotransferase (BCAA-T), glutamine synthetase (Gln-S), glutaminase (GLNase), and glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH). In the presence of 10 mM gabapentin, only GABA-T, BCAA-T, and GDH activities were affected by this drug. Inhibition of GABA-T by gabapentin was weak (33%). The Ki values for inhibition of cytosolic and mitochondrial forms of GABA-T (17-20 mM) were much higher than the Km values for GABA (1.5-1.9 mM). It is, therefore, unlikely that inhibition of GABA-T by gabapentin is clinically relevant. As with leucine, gabapentin stimulated GDH activity. The GDH activity in rat brain synaptosomes was activated 6-fold and 3.4-fold, respectively, at saturating concentrations (10 mM) of leucine and gabapentin. The half-maximal stimulation by gabapentin was observed at approximately 1.5 mM. Gabapentin is not a substrate of BCAA-T, but it exhibited a potent competitive inhibition of both cytosolic and mitochondrial forms of brain BCAA-T. Inhibition of BCAA-T by this drug was reversible. The Ki values (0.8-1.4 mM) for inhibition of transamination by gabapentin were close to the apparent Km values for the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine (0.6-1.2 mM), suggesting that gabapentin may significantly reduce synthesis of glutamate from BCAA in brain by acting on BCAA-T.

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