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Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009 Jan-Mar;2(1):52-7.

Zolpidem, a clinical hypnotic that affects electronic transfer, alters synaptic activity through potential GABA receptors in the nervous system without significant free radical generation.

Author information

1
Department of Chemistry, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182-1030, USA. pkovacic@sundown.sdsu.edu

Abstract

Zolpidem (trade name Ambien) has attracted much interest as a sleep-inducing agent and also in research. Attention has been centered mainly on receptor binding and electrochemistry in the central nervous system which are briefly addressed herein. A novel integrated approach to mode of action is presented. The pathways to be discussed involve basicity, reduction potential, electrostatics, cell signaling, GABA receptor binding, electron transfer (ET), pharmacodynamics, structure activity relationships (SAR) and side effects. The highly conjugated pyridinium salt formed by protonation of the amidine moiety is proposed to be the active form acting as an ET agent. Extrapolation of reduction potentials for related compounds supports the premise that zolpidem may act as an ET species in vivo. From recent literature reports, electrostatics is believed to play a significant role in drug action. The pyridinium cation displays molecular electrostatic potential which may well play a role energetically or as a bridging mechanism. An SAR analysis points to analogy with other physiologically active xenobiotics, namely benzodiazepines and paraquat in the conjugated iminium category. Inactivity of metabolites indicates that the parent is the active form of zolpidem. Absence of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress is in line with minor side effects. In contrast, generally, the prior literature contains essentially no discussion of these fundamental biochemical relationships. Pharmacodynamics may play an important role. Concerning behavior at the blood-brain barrier, useful insight can be gained from investigations of the related cationic anesthetics that are structurally related to acetyl choline. Evidently, the neutral form of the drug penetrates the neuronal membrane, with the salt form operating at the receptor. The pathways of zolpidem have several clinical implications since the agent affects sedation, electroencephalographic activity, oxidative metabolites and receptors in the central nervous system. The drug acts at the GABA(A) receptor benzodiazepine site, displaying high and intermediate affinities to various receptor regions. Structural features for tight binding were determined. The sedative and anticonvulsant activities are due to its action on the alpha-1-GABA(A) receptors. One of the common adverse responses to zolpidem is hallucinations. Proposed mechanisms comprise changes in the GABA(A) receptor, pharmacodynamic interactions involving serotonin and neuronal-weak photon emission processes entailing redox phenomena. Reports cite cases of abuse with cravings based on anxiolytic and stimulating actions. It is important to recognize that insight concerning processes at the fundamental, molecular level can translate into beneficial results involving both positive and adverse side effects. In order for this to occur, interdisciplinary interaction is necessary. Suggestions are made for future research aimed at testing the various hypotheses.

KEYWORDS:

SAR; cell signaling; electrochemistry; neuroscience; receptors; zolpidem

PMID:
20046645
PMCID:
PMC2763231
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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