Ethanol enhances [3H]diazepam binding at the benzodiazepine-γ-aminobutyric acid receptor-ionophore complex

W. C. Davis, M. K. Ticku

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Ethanol, which has a pharmacological profile similar to those of barbiturates and benzodiazepines, enhances [3H]diazepam binding to the crude Lubrol-solubilized fraction. This fraction had specific binding sites for [3H]diazepam, [3H]muscimol, and [α-3H]dihydropicrotoxinin (DHP). Ethanol enhanced [3H]diazepam to this fraction in a dose-dependent manner with a maximal enhancement of 90 ± 8.5% occurring at 100 mM and a half-maximal effect occurring at 30 mM. Ethanol (100 mM) changed the K(D) from a control value of 9.36 ± 126 to 4.40 ± 0.33 nM (p > 0.005). The B(max) of [3H]diazepam binding was not significantly altered. The enhancing effect of ethanol was blocked by picrotoxinin and (+)-bicuculline. Ethanol, while enhancing [3H]diazepam binding to the crude Lubrol fraction, inhibited partially the binding of [3H]DHP and had no effect on [3H]muscimol binding. The rank order of enhancement of [3H]diazepam binding with various alcohols (ethanol > methanol > isopropyl alcohol > propanol-1 = t-butyl alcohol = butanol-1) did not agree with their partition coefficients. These results suggest that ethanol, like pentobarbital, enhances [3H]diazepam binding at the benzodiazepine-γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor-ionophore complex. This interaction will result in facilitation of GABAergic transmission and may be responsible for some of the central effects of alcohol, such as antianxiety, muscle relaxant, and sedative. The authors also provide evidence that ethanol does not enhance [3H]diazepam directly at the benzodiazepine binding site, but, rather, indirectly via the picrotoxinin-sensitive site of the benzodiazepine-GABA receptor-ionophore complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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