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Brain Res. 1993 Jul 2;615(2):267-74.

Neurosteroid pregnenolone induces sleep-EEG changes in man compatible with inverse agonistic GABAA-receptor modulation.

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Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.


The steroid pregnenolone (P) and its sulfate (PS) can accumulate in the central nervous system independent of peripheral sources. Pharmacologically, the sulphated form of P interacts with the GABAA receptor complex, and functional assays show that this steroid behaves as an allosteric GABAA receptor antagonist. The present study explored the effect of a single dose of P upon the sleep-EEG and concurrent secretion of growth hormone and cortisol in male volunteers. P increased the amount of time spent in slow wave sleep and depressed EEG sigma power. Sleep-associated nocturnal cortisol and growth hormone secretion remained unchanged, ruling out the possibility that P exerted its effect via altered regulation of these hormones. Furthermore, results from in vitro studies on the potency of P to activate gene transcription via corticosteroid receptors made a genomic action of P via hormone receptor-sensitive DNA sequences unlikely. We conclude that P acts in a non-genomic fashion at or in the vicinity of the benzodiazepine binding site, modulating allosterically the GABAA receptor like a partial inverse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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