3-Methyl-Neurosteroid Analogs Are Preferential Positive Allosteric Modulators and Direct Activators of Extrasynaptic -Subunit -Aminobutyric Acid Type A Receptors in the Hippocampus Dentate Gyrus Subfield. Academic Article uri icon


  • Neurosteroids are powerful modulators of -aminobutyric acid (GABA)-A receptors. Ganaxolone (3-hydroxy-3-methyl-5-pregnan-20-one, GX) and synthetic analogs of the neurosteroid allopregnanolone (AP) are designed to treat epilepsy and related conditions. However, their precise mechanism of action in native neurons remains unclear. Here, we sought to determine the mode of action of GX and its analogs at GABA-A receptors in native hippocampal neurons by analyzing extrasynaptic receptor-mediated tonic currents and synaptic receptor-mediated phasic currents. Concentration-response profiles of GX were determined in two cell types: -containing dentate gyrus granule cells (DGGCs) and 2-containing CA1 pyramidal cells (CA1PCs). GX produced significantly greater potentiation of the GABA-A receptor-activated chloride currents in DGGCs (500%) than CA1PCs (200%). In the absence of GABA, GX evoked 2-fold greater inward currents in DGGCs than CA1PCs, which were 2-fold greater than AP within DGGCs. In hippocampus slices, GX potentiated and directly activated tonic currents in DGGCs. These responses were significantly diminished in DGGCs from -subunit knockout (KO) mice, confirming GX's selectivity for GABA-A receptors. Like AP, GX potentiation of tonic currents was prevented by protein kinase C inhibition. Furthermore, GX's protection against hippocampus-kindled seizures was significantly diminished in KO mice. GX analogs exhibited greater potency and efficacy than GX on GABA-A receptor-mediated tonic inhibition. In summary, these results provide strong evidence that GX and its analogs are preferential allosteric modulators and direct activators of extrasynaptic GABA-A receptors regulating network inhibition and seizures in the dentate gyrus. Therefore, these findings provide a mechanistic rationale for the clinical use of synthetic neurosteroids in epilepsy and seizure disorders.

published proceedings

  • J Pharmacol Exp Ther

author list (cited authors)

  • Chuang, S., & Reddy, D. S.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Chuang, Shu-Hui||Reddy, Doodipala Samba

publication date

  • June 2018