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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 May;215(2):311-9. doi: 10.1007/s00213-010-2142-y. Epub 2010 Dec 30.

Contribution of GABA(A) receptors containing α3 subunits to the therapeutic-related and side effects of benzodiazepine-type drugs in monkeys.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, New England Primate Research Center, One Pine Hill Drive, P.O. Box 9102, Southborough, MA 01772-9102, USA.



Experimental evidence suggests that the differential behavioral effects of benzodiazepines depend on their relative actions at γ-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA(A)) receptors that contain either an α1, α2, α3, or α5 subunit.


The present study was aimed at understanding the role of α3 subunit-containing GABA(A) (α3GABA(A)) receptors by examining the behavioral pharmacology of TP003 (4,2'-difluoro-5'-[8-fluoro-7-(1-hydroxy-1-methylethyl)imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-yl]biphenyl-2-carbonitrile), which shows functional selectivity for α3GABA(A) receptors.


First, a conflict procedure was used to assess the anxiolytic-like effects of TP003 and a representative clinically available benzodiazepine. TP003 was also administered before daily periods of sucrose pellet availability to evaluate potential hyperphagic effects. In separate experiments, observable behavioral effects were used to assess the motor and sedative effects of TP003.


Administration of TP003 produced robust anti-conflict effects without the rate-decreasing effects that were observed with the representative benzodiazepine. Unlike the reported effects of benzodiazepines, TP003 did not enhance palatable food consumption. However, increases in observable sleep-associated posture were induced by TP003, as were decreases in some species-typical behaviors (vocalization, locomotion, and environment-directed behaviors). When evaluated for its ability to induce a procumbent posture, TP003 failed to produce an effect.


Based on conflict and observation tests in monkeys, our results suggest that TP003 may have anxiolytic properties but lack ataxic, hyperphagic, and pronounced sedative effects characteristic of classical benzodiazepines. TP003 did induce myorelaxant-like effects and had relatively mild sedative effects. Collectively, these results suggest that α3GABA(A) receptors play an important role in the anxiolytic-like and motor effects of benzodiazepine-type drugs.

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