DOI: 10.1101/462457Nov 8, 2018Paper

Brain neurosteroids are natural anxiolytics targeting α2 subunit γ-aminobutyric acid type-A receptors

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Elizabeth J DurkinTrevor G Smart


Neurosteroids are naturally-occurring molecules in the brain that modulate neurotransmission. They are physiologically important since disrupting their biosynthesis precipitates neurological disorders, such as anxiety and depression. The endogenous neurosteroids, allopregnanolone and tetrahydro-deoxycorticosterone are derived from sex and stress hormones respectively, and exhibit therapeutically-useful anxiolytic, analgesic, sedative, anticonvulsant and antidepressant properties. Their main target is the γ-aminobutyric acid type-A inhibitory neurotransmitter receptor (GABAAR), whose activation they potentiate. However, whether specific GABAAR isoforms and neural circuits differentially mediate endogenous neurosteroid effects is unknown. By creating a knock-in mouse that removes neurosteroid potentiation from α2-GABAAR subunits, we reveal that this isoform is a key target for neurosteroid modulation of phasic and tonic inhibition, and is essential for the anxiolytic role of endogenous neurosteroids, but not for their anti-depressant or analgesic properties. Overall, α2-GABAAR targeting neurosteroids may act as selective anxiolytics for the treatment of anxiety disorders, providing new therapeutic opportunities for drug development.

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