Novel compounds selectively enhance δ subunit containing GABAA receptors and increase tonic currents in thalamus

K. A. Wafford, M. B. van Niel, Q. P. Ma, E. Horridge, M. B. Herd, D. R. Peden, D. Belelli, J. J. Lambert

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Inhibition in the brain is dominated by the neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA); operating through GABAA receptors. This form of neural inhibition was presumed to be mediated by synaptic receptors, however recent evidence has highlighted a previously unappreciated role for extrasynaptic GABAA receptors in controlling neuronal activity. Synaptic and extrasynaptic GABAA receptors exhibit distinct pharmacological and biophysical properties that differentially influence brain physiology and behavior. Here we used a fluorescence-based assay and cell lines expressing recombinant GABAA receptors to identify a novel series of benzamide compounds that selectively enhance, or activate α4β3δ GABAA receptors (cf. α4β3γ2 and α1β3γ2). Utilising electrophysiological methods, we illustrate that one of these compounds, 4-chloro-N-[6,8-dibromo-2-(2-thienyl)imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-yl benzamide (DS1) potently (low nM) enhances GABA-evoked currents mediated by α4β3δ receptors. At similar concentrations DS1 directly activates this receptor and is the most potent known agonist of α4β3δ receptors. 4-chloro-N-[2-(2-thienyl)imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-yl benzamide (DS2) selectively potentiated GABA responses mediated by α4β3δ receptors, but was not an agonist. Recent studies have revealed a tonic form of inhibition in thalamus mediated by the α4β2δ extrasynaptic GABAA receptors that may contribute to the regulation of thalamocortical rhythmic activity associated with sleep, wakefulness, vigilance and seizure disorders. In mouse thalamic relay cells DS2 enhanced the tonic current mediated by α4β2δ receptors with no effect on their synaptic GABAA receptors. Similarly, in mouse cerebellar granule cells DS2 potentiated the tonic current mediated by α6βδ receptors. DS2 is the first selective positive allosteric modulator of δ-GABAA receptors and such compounds potentially offer novel therapeutic opportunities as analgesics and in the treatment of sleep disorders. Furthermore, these drugs may be valuable in elucidating the physiological and pathophysiological roles played by these extrasynaptic GABAA receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-189
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Allosteric modulator
  • Delta subunit
  • Extrasynaptic
  • GABA receptor
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Novel compounds selectively enhance δ subunit containing GABAA receptors and increase tonic currents in thalamus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this