Impact of ε and θ subunits on pharmacological properties of α3β1 GABAA receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes
1 Institute of Biomedicine, Pharmacology, Biomedicum Helsinki, POB 63 (Haartmaninkatu 8), FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
2 Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Turku, Itäinen Pitkäkatu 4, FI-20520 Turku, Finland
BMC Pharmacology 2006, 6:1 doi:10.1186/1471-2210-6-1Published: 13 January 2006
γ-Aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors provide the main inhibitory control in the brain. Their heterogeneity may make it possible to precisely target drug effects to selected neuronal populations. In situ hybridization using rat brain sections has revealed a unique expression of GABAA receptor ε and θ subunit transcripts in the locus coeruleus, where they are accompanied at least by α3, α2, β1 and β3 subunits. Here, we studied the pharmacology of the human α3β1, α3β1ε, α3β1θ and α3β1εθ receptor subtypes expressed in Xenopus oocytes and compared them with the γ2 subunit-containing receptors.
The GABA sensitivites and effects of several positive modulators of GABAA receptors were studied in the absence and the presence of EC25 GABA using the two-electrode voltage-clamp method. We found 100-fold differences in GABA sensitivity between the receptors, α3β1ε subtype being the most sensitive and α3β1γ2 the least sensitive. Also gaboxadol dose-response curves followed the same sensitivity rank order, with EC50 values being 72 and 411 μM for α3β1ε and α3β1γ2 subtypes, respectively. In the presence of EC25 GABA, introduction of the ε subunit to the receptor complex resulted in diminished modulatory effects by etomidate, propofol, pregnanolone and flurazepam, but not by pentobarbital. Furthermore, the α3β1ε subtype displayed picrotoxin-sensitive spontaneous activity. The θ subunit-containing receptors were efficiently potentiated by the anesthetic etomidate, suggesting that θ subunit could bring the properties of β2 or β3 subunits to the receptor complex.
The ε and θ subunits bring additional features to α3β1 GABAA receptors. These receptor subtypes may constitute as novel drug targets in selected brain regions, e.g., in the brainstem locus coeruleus nuclei.