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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1997 Mar;280(3):1284-95.

Characterization of the anticonvulsant properties of ganaxolone (CCD 1042; 3alpha-hydroxy-3beta-methyl-5alpha-pregnan-20-one), a selective, high-affinity, steroid modulator of the gamma-aminobutyric acid(A) receptor.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, CoCensys, Inc., Irvine, California 92618, USA.


Ganaxolone (CCD 1042) is a 3beta-methyl-substituted analog of the endogenous neuroactive steroid 3alpha-hydroxy-5alpha-pregnan-20-one. Ganaxolone inhibited binding of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor-chloride channel ligand t-[35S]butylbicyclophosphorothionate (IC50 of 80 nM) and enhanced binding of the benzodiazepine site ligand [3H]flunitrazepam (EC50 of 125 nM) and the GABA site ligand [3H]muscimol (EC50 of 86 nM), consistent with activity as a positive allosteric modulator of the GABA(A) receptor. Electrophysiological recordings showed that, whereas nanomolar concentrations of ganaxolone potentiated GABA-evoked chloride currents in Xenopus oocytes expressing the human GABA(A) receptor subunits alpha1beta1gamma2L, alpha2beta1gamma2L or alpha3beta1gamma2L, direct activation of chloride flux occurred to a limited extent only at micromolar concentrations. Ganaxolone was effective in nontoxic doses against clonic convulsions induced by s.c. pentylenetetrazol administration in mice and rats (ED50 values of 4.3 and 7.8 mg/kg i.p., respectively). Ganaxolone also exhibited potent anticonvulsant activity against seizures induced by s.c. bicuculline (ED50 of 4.6 mg/kg i.p.), i.p. TBPS (ED50 of 11.7 mg/kg i.p.) and i.p. aminophylline (ED50 of 11.5 mg/kg i.p.) in mice. Although ganaxolone effectively blocked tonic seizures induced by maximal electroshock in mice (ED50 of 29.7 mg/kg i.p.), it did so only at doses that produced ataxia on the Rotorod (TD50 of 33.4 mg/kg i.p.). Conversely, ganaxolone was a potent anticonvulsant against fully kindled stage 5 seizures induced by corneal kindling in rats (ED50 of 4.5 mg/kg i.p.), producing these effects at doses well below those that resulted in ataxia (TD50 of 14.2 mg/kg i.p.). The seizure threshold, as determined by an increase in the dose of i.v. infused pentylenetetrazol required to induce clonus, was also significantly elevated by nontoxic doses of ganaxolone in mice. In summary, these data indicate that ganaxolone is a high-affinity, stereoselective, positive allosteric modulator of the GABA(A) receptor complex that exhibits potent anticonvulsant activity across a range of animal procedures. The profile of anticonvulsant activity obtained for ganaxolone supports clinical evaluation of this drug as an antiepileptic therapy with potential utility in the treatment of generalized absence seizures as well as simple and complex partial seizures.

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