Isobolographic Analysis of Antiseizure Activity of the GABA Type A Receptor-Modulating Synthetic Neurosteroids Brexanolone and Ganaxolone with Tiagabine and Midazolam. Academic Article uri icon


  • Epilepsy is often treated with a combination of antiepileptic drugs. Although neurosteroids are potent anticonvulsants, little is known about their combination potential for the treatment of refractory epilepsy. Here, we investigated the combination efficacy of neurosteroids allopregnanolone (AP, brexanolone) and ganaxolone (GX) with the GABA-reuptake inhibitor tiagabine (TG) or the benzodiazepine midazolam (MDZ) on tonic inhibition in dentate gyrus granule cells and seizure protection in the hippocampus kindling and 6-Hz seizure models. Isobolographic analysis indicated that combinations of GX and TG or AP and TG at three standard ratios (1:1, 3:1, and 1:3) displayed significant synergism in augmenting tonic inhibition. In pharmacological studies, GX, AP, and TG produced dose-dependent antiseizure effects in mice (ED50 = 1.46, 4.20, and 0.20 mg/kg, respectively). The combination of GX and TG at the fixed ratio of 1:1 exerted the greatest combination index (CI = 0.53), indicating strong synergistic interaction in seizure protection. In addition, combination regimens of AP and TG showed robust synergism for seizure protection (CI = 0.4). Finally, combination regimens of GX and MDZ elicited synergistic (CI = 0.6) responses for seizure protection. These results demonstrate striking synergism of neurosteroids and TG combination for seizure protection, likely because of their effects at extrasynaptic GABA type A (GABA-A) receptors from TG-induced elevation in GABA levels. Superadditive antiseizure activity of neurosteroid-MDZ combinations may stem from their actions at both synaptic and extrasynaptic GABA-A receptors. Together, these findings provide a potential mechanistic basis for combination potential of neurosteroids with TG or benzodiazepines for the management of refractory epilepsy, status epilepticus, and seizure disorders. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: This paper investigates for the first time the potential synergistic interactions between two neurosteroids with anticonvulsant properties, allopregnanolone (brexanolone) and the very similar synthetic analog, ganaxolone, and two conventional antiepileptic drugs active at GABA type A receptors: the GABA-reuptake inhibitor tiagabine and a benzodiazepine, midazolam. The results demonstrate a synergistic protective effect of neurosteroid-tiagabine combinations, as well as neurosteroid-midazolam regimens in seizure models.

published proceedings

  • J Pharmacol Exp Ther

altmetric score

  • 15.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Chuang, S., & Reddy, D. S.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

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

publication date

  • March 2020