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Ethanol action on excitatory amino acid activated ion channels.

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Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The effects of ethanol on excitatory amino acid activated ion channels were investigated using patch-clamp recording methods. Intoxicating concentrations of ethanol (5-50 mM) inhibited ion current activated by the glutamate receptor agonist N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) in a concentration-dependent manner (IC50 = 30 mM). The intoxicating potency of different alcohols was correlated with their potency for inhibiting NMDA-activated current, suggesting that alcohol-induced inhibition of NMDA channel function may contribute to the neural and cognitive impairments associated with intoxication. Analysis of mechanism suggests that ethanol inhibits NMDA-activated current by altering gating of the channel, rather than by affecting channel conductance, ion permeance or regulatory sites on the channel. Anesthetic concentrations of ethanol (> 50 mM) produced a concentration-dependent inhibition of kainate- and quisqualate-activated currents (IC50 = 220 mM), suggesting that this inhibition may contribute to the general anesthetic effects of ethanol. This hypothesis is supported by the observations that the general anesthetic agents, trichloroethanol (the active metabolite of chloral hydrate), pentobarbital and halothane, all inhibit kainate- and quisqualate-activated currents.

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