Limited central side effects of a β-subunit subtype-selective GABAA receptor allosteric modulator

Ryan F. Yoshimura, Minhtam B. Tran, Derk J. Hogenkamp, Timothy B. Johnstone, Jennifer Y. Xie, Frank Porreca, Kelvin W. Gee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


GABAergic anxiolytics have well-documented centrally mediated side effects including sedation, potentiation of ethanol, tolerance, abuse liability and memory impairment. Most research directed towards identifying an anxioselective GABAergic therapeutic has been based upon the theory that these side effects could be mitigated by avoiding α1/5-subunit GABAA receptors while specifically targeting those with the α2/3-subunit. Unfortunately, there are prominent exceptions to this theory and it has yet to be translated into clinical success. We previously demonstrated that β2/3-subunit- selective GABAA receptor-positive allosteric modulators act as anxiolytics with reduced sedation and ethanol potentiation regardless of their activity at α1-subunit GABAA receptors. The prototypical β2/3-subunit-selective positive allosteric modulator, 2-261, is further characterized here for additional side effects commonly associated with central GABAA receptor activation. In mice, 10 times the anxiolytic dose (10 mg/kg) of 2-261 does not induce behavioral tolerance in the elevated plus maze following a 2 week subchronic treatment. In rats, an anxiolytic dose (10 mg/kg) of 2-261 is inactive in conditioned place preference, suggesting a reduced abuse liability. In rats, 10 times the anxiolytic dose (100 mg/kg) of 2-261 does not have a significant amnestic effect in the radial arm maze, suggesting a greater therapeutic index for memory impairment. These results suggest that β2/3-subunit subtype-selective GABAA receptor-positive allosteric modulators not only have reduced sedative liability, but also a reduction in other central side effects commonly associated with broader GABAA receptor activation. β2/3-subunit-selective compounds may represent a novel design template for anxiolytics with benzodiazepine-like efficacy and mitigated side effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)472-478
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Anxiolytics
  • GABAergic
  • allosteric
  • benzodiazepine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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