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The progesterone metabolite isoallopregnanolone is a subunit-selective antagonist of the GABA-A receptor
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. (Torbjörn Bäckström, UNC)
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

 Allopregnanolone is a progesterone metabolite that can negatively affect learning and induce anaesthesia in rats. It also impairs episodic memory in women. Allopregnanolone levels are elevated during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, and during stress. Allopregnanolone is a strong positive modulator of the GABAA receptor. The subunit composition of the GABAA receptor is of importance for effects of modulators, and GABAA receptors including the α5-subunit are of significance for learning, while receptors with other subunits are involved in e.g. anesthesia. Isoallopregnanolone, a natural 3β-epimer of allopregnanolone, has been shown to antagonize allopregnanolone-induced anesthesia in rats.

We tried to block the allopregnanolone-induced impairment of learning in rats in the Morris water maze test, using isoallopregnanolone (4–32 mg/kg). We also determined steroid concentrations in blood and brain tissue, and with whole-cell patch clamp we studied the effects of isoallopregnanolone and tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (a neurosteroid similar to allopregnanolone) on HEK-293 cells expressing the human α5β2γ2L GABAA receptor.

Isoallopregnanolone did not block the negative effects of allopregnanolone (2 mg/kg) in the Morris water maze test. Our presumed antagonist actually had an agonistic effect on the tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone-mediated potentiation of the GABA effect on the α5β2γ2L GABAA receptor. The baseline shift induced by tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone alone was not reversed by isoallopregnanolone. A bidirectional epimerisation between allopregnanolone and isoallopregnanolone was also identified in the rat.

The lack of antagonistic effect at the α5β2γ2L GABAA receptor together with the epimerisation of isoallopregnanolone to allopregnanolone would probably explain the lack of effect of our proposed antagonist on the allopregnanolone-induced impairment of learning 

URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-27069OAI: diva2:276032
Available from: 2009-11-10 Created: 2009-11-10 Last updated: 2011-04-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Progesterone metabolites: learning, tolerance, antagonism & metabolism
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Progesterone metabolites: learning, tolerance, antagonism & metabolism
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Progesterone metabolites as allopregnanolone, isoallopregnanolone and tetrahydrodeoxy-corticosterone (THDOC) are increased in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, throughout pregnancy and during stress. Allopregnanolone and THDOC are neurosteroids with 3α-hydroxy, 5α-configurations and positive modulating effect on the GABAA receptor. They have similar properties and effect, and share the same binding sites on the GABAA receptor. Isoallopregnanolone has a 3β-hydroxy, 5α-configuration and a diverse effect as a proposed antagonist to both allopregnanolone and THDOC. Neurosteroids are thought to exert their effect predominantly at extrasynaptic GABAA receptors, containing for example α4- or α5-subunits. Such receptors are involved in the tonic response. Different subunits have diverse distribution pattern in the brain and are involved in different functions. The α5-subunit, mainly expressed in the hippocampus, is involved in learning, while α4 is more widespread and involved in e.g. anxiety and anaesthesia.

The aim of the present thesis was to contribute to the knowledge about selected progesterone metabolites and their effects on learning and tolerance development, as well as their metabolism. Also basic characteristics between different α-subunits of the GABAA receptor were evaluated.

The thesis shows that the effect of bicuculline and pentobarbital is not dependent on the α-subunit isoform of the GABAA receptor expressed in oocytes. Acute tolerance developed after allopregnanolone-induced anaesthesia with a decrease at both mRNA and protein levels of the GABAA receptor α4-subunit in the thalamus VPM nucleus. A negative correlation between the α4 mRNA and the increased dose of allopregnanolone needed to maintain the anaesthesia level was also shown. In addition, allopregnanolone induces a learning impairment in the Morris water maze test, when high concentrations of allopregnanolone are present in the brain. This impairment is not possible to reverse by isoallopregnanolone. In α5β3γ2L-transfected HEK-293 cells THDOC induces a baseline shift of its own and also potentiate the GABA-current. Neither of those THDOC effects can be inhibited by isoallopregnanolone. Instead isoallopregnanolone shows an agonistic effect on the THDOC-potentiation of the GABA-response. The main allopregnanolone metabolites identified, 5α-DHP and isoallopregnanolone, as well as allopregnanolone itself are mainly localized to the brain after an i.v. injection. After an isoallopregnanolone injection there is a more even distribution of the given steroid and the metabolites between plasma and brain. There is an epimerisation between isoallopregnanolone and allopregnanolone and vice versa.

In conclusion, the present thesis shows that the α4-subunit in the thalamus VPM nucleus is likely to be involved in the acute tolerance development against allopregnanolone and that allopregnanolone-induced learning impairment is likely to be hippocampus dependent. The lack of antagonistic effect of isoallopregnanolone on the THDOC-induced α5β3γ2L-GABAA response, together with epimerisation of isoallopregnanolone to allopregnanolone, could explain why isoallopregnanolone does not work as an antagonist to the allopregnanolone-induced learning impairment in a hippocampus dependent learning task.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå university, 2009. 73 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1306
allopregnanolone, isoallopregnanolone, THDOC, learning, tolerance, antagonism, inhibition, patch clamp, Morris water maze, metabolism, epimerization
National Category
Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine
Research subject
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-27064 (URN)978-91-7264-888-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-12-05, Sal 914, By 1, 9 tr, NUS, Norrlands Universitetssjukhus, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2009-11-16 Created: 2009-11-09 Last updated: 2010-01-18Bibliographically approved

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Öfverman, CharlotteTurkmen, SahruhLundgren, PerBäckström, TorbjörnJohansson, Inga-Maj
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