Neurochemical actions of anesthetic drugs on the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor-chloride channel complex. Academic Article uri icon


  • Interaction of intoxicant-anesthetic drugs with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor-chloride channel complex of mouse brain was studied using the binding of [35S]t-butylbicyclophosphorothionate (TBPS) to isolated membranes and the GABA-stimulated uptake of 36Cl- by membrane vesicles. Anesthetic drugs, including barbiturates, chloroform, diethylether and ethanol, inhibited the binding of TBPS and enhanced the GABA-dependent influx of chloride. In the presence of bicuculline, barbiturates increased the binding of TBPS, but this action was not shared by other anesthetic agents. Inhibition of TBPS binding was found with drug concentrations that produce anesthesia in vivo, whereas augmentation of GABA action occurred at subanesthetic concentrations. Effects of a series of n-alcohols (methanol to decanol) were studied on TBPS binding and membrane fluidity (using 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene as a fluorescent probe). The potencies of the alcohols for inhibiting TBPS binding and fluidizing synaptic membranes were similar to their anesthetic potencies, but there were differences in the relative potencies of the drugs for inhibition of TBPS binding and membrane fluidization. These results, together with effects of assay temperature, suggest that effects of anesthetics on the GABA receptor-chloride channel complex were not due to changes in bulk membrane fluidity. Correlation of anesthetic potencies of chemically diverse agents with both inhibition of TBPS binding and augmentation of GABA-dependent chloride flux suggests a role for the GABA complex in anesthesia.

publication date

  • September 1987