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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009 Apr;106(4):1257-63. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.91314.2008. Epub 2009 Feb 12.

The GABAA agonist muscimol attenuates induced airway constriction in guinea pigs in vivo.

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Department of Anesthesiology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


GABA(A) channels are ubiquitously expressed on neuronal cells and act via an inward chloride current to hyperpolarize the cell membrane of mature neurons. Expression and function of GABA(A) channels on airway smooth muscle cells has been demonstrated in vitro. Airway smooth muscle cell membrane hyperpolarization contributes to relaxation. We hypothesized that muscimol, a selective GABA(A) agonist, could act on endogenous GABA(A) channels expressed on airway smooth muscle to attenuate induced increases in airway pressures in anesthetized guinea pigs in vivo. In an effort to localize muscimol's effect to GABA(A) channels expressed on airway smooth muscle, we pretreated guinea pigs with a selective GABA(A) antagonist (gabazine) or eliminated lung neural control from central parasympathetic, sympathetic, and nonadrenergic, noncholinergic (NANC) nerves before muscimol treatment. Pretreatment with intravenous muscimol alone attenuated intravenous histamine-, intravenous acetylcholine-, or vagal nerve-stimulated increases in peak pulmonary inflation pressure. Pretreatment with the GABA(A) antagonist gabazine blocked muscimol's effect. After the elimination of neural input to airway tone by central parasympathetic nerves, peripheral sympathetic nerves, and NANC nerves, intravenous muscimol retained its ability to block intravenous acetylcholine-induced increases in peak pulmonary inflation pressures. These findings demonstrate that the GABA(A) agonist muscimol acting specifically via GABA(A) channel activation attenuates airway constriction independently of neural contributions. These findings suggest that therapeutics directed at the airway smooth muscle GABA(A) channel may be a novel therapy for airway constriction following airway irritation and possibly more broadly in diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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