Functional coupling of gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors to chloride channels in brain membranes.
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gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in mammalian brain, is believed to act by increasing membrane conductance of chloride ions. In this study it was found that GABA agonists increased the uptake of chloride-36 by cell-free membrane preparations from mouse brain. This influx was rapid (less than 5 seconds), and 13 micromolar GABA produced a half-maximal effect. The GABA antagonists (bicuculline and picrotoxin) blocked the effect of GABA, whereas pentobarbital enhanced the action. This may be the first demonstration of functional coupling among GABA and barbiturate receptors and chloride channels in isolated membranes. The technique should facilitate biochemical and pharmacological studies of GABA receptor-effector coupling.