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Life Sci. 1996;58(7):573-83.

Chronic anabolic-androgenic steroid treatment affects brain GABA(A) receptor-gated chloride ion transport.

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Department of Psychology, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610, USA.


Previous research in this laboratory has shown that chronic treatment of adult male rats with an anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) produced anxiolytic behavior and increased the functional response of cortical gamma-aminobutyric acid(A) (GABA(A)) receptors. The experiments reported here were aimed at further characterizing the effect of chronic AAS exposure on cerebral cortical GABA(A) receptors. Adult male rats were injected with dianabol (1,4-androstadien-17alpha-methyl-17beta-ol-3-one; 10 mg/kg/day, SC) for 4 weeks. A significant decrease in ventral prostate gland weight was found after 2 weeks of dianabol, and returned to control levels 3 and 10 days after steroid discontinuation. Testicular weights decreased throughout the treatment period but reached statistical significance only during the withdrawal period. Serum 3alpha-androstanediol level was marginally increased afer 2 weeks of dianabol injection, and was significantly decreased at 3 and 10 days after withdrawal. GABA-stimulated 36chloride (Cl-) influx in cortical synaptoneurosomes was increased in animals treated with dianabol for 2 and 4 weeks, and remained elevated 3 days after dianabol withdrawal, returning to control levels at withdrawal day 10. The increase in receptor efficacy was associated with a transient increase in receptor sensitivity (inverse of EC50), apparent after 2 weeks of AAS treatment and at withdrawal day 3. In a follow-up experiment, metabolites of dianabol were tested for the in vitro efficacy in potentiating GABA-stimulated Cl- transport. Only 3alpha-androstanedial and androsterone were found to have potent stimulatory effects. The 3beta-reduced metabolites were inactive, as were metabolites that contained a methyl group at the 17alpha position. These results point to significant facilitative effects of dianabol treatment on brain GABA(A) receptors via the metabolic formation of neuroactive steroids.

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