Author(s): Lovick TA, Griffiths JL, Dunn SM, Martin IL
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Abstract In women, the late luteal phase or "premenstrual" period is commonly associated with psychological disturbances, which include mood changes and increased aggression. The underlying cause is unknown but one possibility is that fluctuations in levels of neuroactive steroids precipitate changes in expression of GABA(A) receptor subunits that result in functional changes in inhibitory control systems. The present study investigated the levels of expression of alpha4, beta1 and delta GABA(A) receptor subunits in the periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) in rats and whether plasticity occurs during the oestrous cycle in females. In male rats alpha4, beta1 and delta subunit immunoreactive neurones were present throughout the PAG in similar numbers. In female rats in proestrus, oestrus and early dioestrus, the density of alpha4, beta1 and delta subunit immunoreactive cells was similar to males. However, in late dioestrus, the numbers increased significantly, especially in the dorsolateral PAG, a region which is particularly rich in GABAergic interneurones. These parallel changes may reflect an increase in expression of the alpha4beta1delta GABA(A) receptor subtype. Recombinant alpha4beta1delta receptors, expressed in Xenopus oocytes, exhibited and EC(50) for GABA an order of magnitude lower (2.02+/-0.33 microM; mean+/-S.E.M.) than that found for the most ubiquitous alpha1beta2gamma2 GABA(A) receptor (32.8+/-2.5 microM). Increased expression of alpha4beta1delta GABA(A) receptors in the interneurones of the PAG could render the panic circuitry abnormally excitable by disinhibiting the ongoing GABAergic inhibition. Similar changes in neuronal excitability within the PAG in women consequent to falling steroid levels in the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle could contribute to the development of pre-menstrual dysphoria.
This article was published in Neuroscience
and referenced in Journal of Depression and Anxiety