Overlapping, but not identical, discriminative stimulus effects of the neuroactive steroid pregnanolone and ethanol

Lisa R. Gerak, Joseph M. Moerschbaecher, Peter J. Winsauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Many behavioral effects of neuroactive steroids are mediated by GABAA receptors; however, other receptors might be involved. Ethanol has a complex mechanism of action, and many of the same receptors have been implicated in the effects of neuroactive steroids and ethanol. The goal of this study was to determine whether actions of neuroactive steroids and ethanol at multiple receptors result in similar discriminative stimulus effects. Rats discriminated 5.6 mg/kg of pregnanolone while responding under a fixed-ratio 20 schedule of food presentation. Pregnanolone, flunitrazepam and pentobarbital produced > 80% pregnanolone-lever responding. In contrast, neither morphine nor the negative GABAA modulator β-CCE substituted for pregnanolone up to doses that markedly decreased response rates. Ethanol substituted only in some rats; in other rats, ethanol produced < 20% pregnanolone-lever responding up to rate-decreasing doses. Thus, substitution of positive GABAA modulators, and not morphine or β-CCE, for pregnanolone in all rats suggests that positive modulation of GABAA receptors is important in the discriminative stimulus effects of pregnanolone. Although pregnanolone might have actions at other receptors, in addition to actions at GABAA receptors, substitution of ethanol for pregnanolone only in some rats suggests that the mechanisms of action of pregnanolone and ethanol overlap, but are not identical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-479
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug discrimination
  • Ethanol
  • Pregnanolone
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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