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Neuropharmacology. 2002 Nov;43(6):925-37.

GABAA receptors and benzodiazepines: a role for dendritic resident subunit mRNAs.

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University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Psychiatry, Psychiatric Institute, 1601 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


This review is designed to describe the evolution of the seminal observation made simultaneously in 1975 by Dr. W. Haefely's laboratory (Hoffman La Roche, Basel, Switzerland) and in the Laboratory of Preclinical Pharmacology (NIH, St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington DC), that benzodiazepine action was mediated by a modulation of GABA action at GABA(A) receptors. In fact, our suggestion was that the benzodiazepine receptor was "a receptor on a receptor" and that this receptor was GABA(A). Needless to say, this suggestion created opposition, but we did not abandon the original idea, in fact, as shown in this review, there is now universal agreement with our hypothesis on the mode of action of benzodiazepines. Hence, this review deals with the allosteric modulation of GABA(A) receptors by benzodiazepines, the role of GABA(A) receptors and benzodiazepine structure diversities in this modulation, and describes the results of our attempts to establish a benzodiazepine (imidazenil) devoid of tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and changes in the expression of GABA(A) receptor subunits during tolerance. It also deals with the idea that the synthesis of GABA(A) receptor subunits triggered by tolerance resides in dendrites and spines where mRNAs and the apparatus for this translation is located. New analytic procedures may foster progress in the understanding of tolerance to and withdrawal from benzodiazepines.

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