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Brain Res. 1998 Oct 5;807(1-2):84-90.

Progesterone withdrawal I: pro-convulsant effects.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, EPPI, 3200 Henry Ave., Allegheny Univ. of the Health Sciences, Philadelphia, PA 19129, USA.


Pro-convulsant withdrawal properties have been reported for a variety of GABA-modulatory drugs, such as the benzodiazepines (BDZs, [S.E. File, The history of BDZ dependence: a review of animal studies, Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 14 (1990) 135-146; P.R. Finley, P. E. Nolan, Precipitation of BDZ withdrawal following sudden discontinuation of midazolam, DICP 23 (1989) 151-152]), barbiturates and ethanol [N. Kokka, D.E. Sapp, U. Witte, R.W. Olsen, Sex differences in sensitivity to pentylenetetrazol but not in GABAA receptor binding, Pharm. Biochem. Behav. 43 (1992) 441-447]. In this report, we test the hypothesis that pro-convulsant effects are produced by withdrawal from the GABA-modulatory neurosteroid 3alpha-OH-5alpha-pregnan-20-one (3alpha,5alpha-THP) after sustained exposure to elevated circulating levels of its parent compound progesterone (P). Seizure activity was precipitated by picrotoxin or with the BDZ inverse agonist n-methyl-beta-carboline-3-carboxamide (beta-CC), and a seizure rating determined 24 h after abrupt discontinuation of P following a multiple withdrawal/chronic administration paradigm. In some cases, a pseudopregnant rat model was employed to produce increased ovarian production of P prior to withdrawal (ovariectomy). Rats undergoing P withdrawal exhibited greater seizure-like activity than vehicle-treated controls, and received seizure scores in the same range as rats undergoing BDZ withdrawal. Administration of a 5alpha-reductase blocker, MK-906, along with P, prevented this pro-convulsant effect of P withdrawal, suggesting that the GABA-modulatory 3alpha,5alpha-THP is the active compound responsible for this withdrawal effect. Combined administration of P and diazepam produced synergistic effects upon withdrawal and produced a seizure score higher than observed after withdrawal from either agent alone. These results suggest that P exhibits withdrawal properties via the neuroactive steroid 3alpha, 5alpha-THP, that include exacerbation of seizure activity. These results may have clinical relevance, as increased incidence and severity of seizures has been reported in susceptible women during times of declining circulating levels of P across the menstrual cycle [T. Backstrom, B. Zetterlund, S. Blom, M. Romano, Effects of intravenous progesterone infusions on the epileptic discharge frequency in women with partial epilepsy, Acta Neurol. Scand. 69 (1984) 240-248; A.G. Herzog, Progesterone therapy in women with complex partial and secondary generalized seizures, Neurology 45 (1995) 1660-1662].

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