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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2002 Sep;302(3):1037-45.

Molecular and pharmacological characterization of GABA(A) receptor alpha1 subunit knockout mice.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7178, USA.


GABA(A) receptors mediate fast inhibitory neurotransmission in the central nervous system (CNS), and approximately half of these receptors contain alpha1 subunits. GABA(A) receptor alpha1 subunits are important for receptor assembly and specific pharmacological responses to benzodiazepines. Plasticity in GABA(A) receptor alpha1 subunit expression is associated with changes in CNS excitability observed during normal brain development, in animal models of epilepsy, and upon withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines. To examine the role of alpha1 subunit-containing GABA(A) receptors in vivo, we characterized receptor subunit expression and pharmacological properties in cerebral cortex of knockout mice with a targeted deletion of the alpha1 subunit. The mice are viable but exhibit an intention tremor. Western blot analysis confirms the complete loss of alpha1 subunit peptide expression. Stable adaptations in the expression of several GABA(A) receptor subunits are observed in the fifth to seventh generations, including decreased expression of beta2/3 and gamma2 subunits and increased expression of alpha2 and alpha3 subunits. There was no change in alpha4, alpha5, or delta subunit peptide levels in cerebral cortex. Knockout mice exhibit loss of over half of GABA(A) receptors measured by [(3)H]muscimol, [(3)H]2-(3-carboxyl)-3-amino-6-(4-methoxyphenyl)-pyridazinium bromide ([(3)H]SR-95531), and t-butylbicyclophosphoro[(35)S]thionate ([(35)S]TBPS) binding. [(3)H]Ethyl-8-azido-5,6-dihydro-5-methyl-6-oxo-4H-imidazo[1,5-a][1,4]benzodiazepine-3-carboxylate ([(3)H]Ro15-4513) binding is reduced by variable amounts in different regions across brain. GABA(A) receptor alpha1(-/-) mice lose all high-affinity [(3)H]zolpidem binding and about half of [(3)H]flunitrazepam binding in the cerebral cortex. The potency and maximal efficacy of muscimol-stimulated (36)Cl(-) uptake in cerebral cortical synaptoneurosomes are reduced in alpha1(-/-) mice. Furthermore, knockout mice exhibit increased bicuculline-induced seizure susceptibility compared with wild-type mice. These data emphasize the significance of alpha1 subunit expression and its involvement in the regulation of CNS excitability.

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