GABA-A Receptors Mediate Tonic Inhibition and Neurosteroid Sensitivity in the Brain.
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Neurosteroids like allopregnanolone (AP) are positive allosteric modulators of synaptic and extrasynaptic GABA-A receptors. AP and related neurosteroids exhibit a greater potency for δ-containing extrasynaptic receptors. The δGABA-A receptors, which are expressed extrasynaptically in the dentate gyrus and other regions, contribute to tonic inhibition, promoting network shunting as well as reducing seizure susceptibility. Levels of endogenous neurosteroids fluctuate with ovarian cycle. Natural and synthetic neurosteroids maximally potentiate tonic inhibition in the hippocampus and provide robust protection against a variety of limbic seizures and status epilepticus. Recently, a consensus neurosteroid pharmacophore model has been proposed at extrasynaptic δGABA-A receptors based on structure-activity relationship for functional activation of tonic currents and seizure protection. Aside from anticonvulsant actions, neurosteroids have been found to be powerful anxiolytic and anesthetic agents. Neurosteroids and Zn2+ have preferential affinity for δ-containing receptors. Thus, Zn2+ can prevent neurosteroid activation of extrasynaptic δGABA-A receptor-mediated tonic inhibition. Recently, we demonstrated that Zn2+ selectively inhibits extrasynaptic δGABA-A receptors and thereby fully prevents AP activation of tonic inhibition and seizure protection. We confirmed that neurosteroids exhibit greater sensitivity at extrasynaptic δGABA-A receptors. Overall, extrasynaptic GABA-A receptors are primary mediators of tonic inhibition in the brain and play a key role in the pathophysiology of epilepsy and other neurological disorders.
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