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Molecular pharmacology

Glycine and GABA(A) ultra-sensitive ethanol receptors as novel tools for alcohol and brain research.


PMID 25245406

Abstract

A critical obstacle to developing effective medications to prevent and/or treat alcohol use disorders is the lack of specific knowledge regarding the plethora of molecular targets and mechanisms underlying alcohol (ethanol) action in the brain. To identify the role of individual receptor subunits in ethanol-induced behaviors, we developed a novel class of ultra-sensitive ethanol receptors (USERs) that allow activation of a single receptor subunit population sensitized to extremely low ethanol concentrations. USERs were created by mutating as few as four residues in the extracellular loop 2 region of glycine receptors (GlyRs) or γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors (GABA(A)Rs), which are implicated in causing many behavioral effects linked to ethanol abuse. USERs, expressed in Xenopus oocytes and tested using two-electrode voltage clamp, demonstrated an increase in ethanol sensitivity of 100-fold over wild-type receptors by significantly decreasing the threshold and increasing the magnitude of ethanol response, without altering general receptor properties including sensitivity to the neurosteroid, allopregnanolone. These profound changes in ethanol sensitivity were observed across multiple subunits of GlyRs and GABA(A)Rs. Collectively, our studies set the stage for using USER technology in genetically engineered animals as a unique tool to increase understanding of the neurobiological basis of the behavioral effects of ethanol.

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P8129
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