Ketamine, but not phencyclidine, selectively modulates
cerebellar GABA(A) receptors containing alpha6 and delta subunits

Hevers W, Hadley SH, Lüddens H, Amin J.
Carl-Ludwig Department of Physiology,
University of Leipzig,
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.
J Neurosci. 2008 May 14;28(20):5383-93.


Phencyclidine (PCP) and ketamine are dissociative anesthetics capable of inducing analgesia, psychomimetic behavior, and a catatonic state of unconsciousness. Despite broad similarities, there are notable differences between the clinical actions of ketamine and PCP. Ketamine has a lower incidence of adverse effects and generally produces greater CNS depression than PCP. Both noncompetitively inhibit NMDA receptors, yet there is little evidence that these drugs affect GABA(A) receptors, the primary target of most anesthetics. alpha6beta2/3delta receptors are subtypes of the GABA(A) receptor family and are abundantly expressed in granular neurons within the adult cerebellum. Here, using an oocyte expression system, we show that at anesthetically relevant concentrations, ketamine, but not PCP, modulates alpha6beta2delta and alpha6beta3delta receptors. Additionally, at higher concentrations, ketamine directly activates these GABA(A) receptors. Comparatively, dizocilpine (MK-801 [(+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo [a,d] cyclohepten-5,10-imine maleate]), a potent noncompetitive antagonist of NMDA receptors that is structurally unrelated to PCP, did not produce any effect on alpha6beta2delta receptors. Of the recombinant GABA(A) receptor subtypes examined (alpha1beta2, alpha1beta2gamma2, alpha1beta2delta, alpha4beta2gamma2, alpha4beta2delta, alpha6beta2gamma2, alpha6beta2delta, and alpha6beta3delta), the actions of ketamine were unique to alpha6beta2delta and alpha6beta3delta receptors. In dissociated granule neurons and cerebellar slice recordings, ketamine potentiated the GABAergic conductance arising from alpha6-containing GABA(A) receptors, whereas PCP showed no effect. Furthermore, ketamine potentiation was absent in cerebellar granule neurons from transgenic functionally null alpha6(-/-) and delta(-/-)mice. These findings suggest that the higher CNS depressant level achieved by ketamine may be the result of its selective actions on alpha6beta2/3delta receptors.

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