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Neuropharmacology. 2009 Jan;56(1):182-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.08.004. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Novel compounds selectively enhance delta subunit containing GABA A receptors and increase tonic currents in thalamus.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories, The Neuroscience Research Centre, Harlow, United Kingdom.


Inhibition in the brain is dominated by the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA); operating through GABA(A) receptors. This form of neural inhibition was presumed to be mediated by synaptic receptors, however recent evidence has highlighted a previously unappreciated role for extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors in controlling neuronal activity. Synaptic and extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors exhibit distinct pharmacological and biophysical properties that differentially influence brain physiology and behavior. Here we used a fluorescence-based assay and cell lines expressing recombinant GABA(A) receptors to identify a novel series of benzamide compounds that selectively enhance, or activate alpha4beta3delta GABA(A) receptors (cf. alpha4beta3gamma2 and alpha1beta3gamma2). Utilising electrophysiological methods, we illustrate that one of these compounds, 4-chloro-N-[6,8-dibromo-2-(2-thienyl)imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-yl benzamide (DS1) potently (low nM) enhances GABA-evoked currents mediated by alpha4beta3delta receptors. At similar concentrations DS1 directly activates this receptor and is the most potent known agonist of alpha4beta3delta receptors. 4-chloro-N-[2-(2-thienyl)imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-yl benzamide (DS2) selectively potentiated GABA responses mediated by alpha4beta3delta receptors, but was not an agonist. Recent studies have revealed a tonic form of inhibition in thalamus mediated by the alpha4beta2delta extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors that may contribute to the regulation of thalamocortical rhythmic activity associated with sleep, wakefulness, vigilance and seizure disorders. In mouse thalamic relay cells DS2 enhanced the tonic current mediated by alpha4beta2delta receptors with no effect on their synaptic GABA(A) receptors. Similarly, in mouse cerebellar granule cells DS2 potentiated the tonic current mediated by alpha6betadelta receptors. DS2 is the first selective positive allosteric modulator of delta-GABA(A) receptors and such compounds potentially offer novel therapeutic opportunities as analgesics and in the treatment of sleep disorders. Furthermore, these drugs may be valuable in elucidating the physiological and pathophysiological roles played by these extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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