Interaction of barbiturates with dihydropicrotoxinin binding sites related to the GABA receptor-ionophore system

Maharaj K. Ticku, Richard W. Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Barbiturate drugs of diverse chemical structure inhibited the binding of [3H] α-dihydropicrotoxinin to rat brain membranes. This biologically active analoque of picrotoxin labels membrane sites related to the convulsant action of these drugs in inhibiting GABA postsynaptic receptor-ionophore function at a site distinct from the GABA receptor. Depressant barbiturates such as pentobarbital inhibited dihydropicrotoxinin binding competitively at therapeutic concentrations (IC50 = 50 μM) whereas the drug does not alter GABA receptors, uptake, or release at this concentration. Antiepileptics such as phenobarbital (IC50=400 μM), were weaker inhibitors of binding. Convulsant barbiturates, however, such as dimethylbutylbarbiturate (IC50=0.05 μM) and cyclohexylidene-ethyl barbiturate (IC50=0.7 μM), were potent inhibitors. The displacement of radioactive dihydropicrotoxinin binding by the convulsant barbiturates had different slopes and Hill numnbers (0.4) compared to displacement by depressant barbiturates and picrotoxinin itself (Hill numbers = 1.0), indicating heterogeneity of binding sites or negative cooperativity. These potent intractions of barbiturates with dihydropicrotoxinin binding sites are consistent with neurophysiological evidence that depressant or convulsant action of barbiturates may involve modulation of CNS inhibitory synaptic transmission at the level of the postsynaptic GABA receptor-ionophores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1643-1651
Number of pages9
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 8 1978
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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