Competitive Antagonism of Anesthetic Action at the γ-Aminobutyric Acid Type A Receptor by a Novel Etomidate Analog with Low Intrinsic Efficacy

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The authors characterized the γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptor pharmacology of the novel etomidate analog naphthalene–etomidate, a potential lead compound for the development of anesthetic-selective competitive antagonists.


The positive modulatory potencies and efficacies of etomidate and naphthalene–etomidate were defined in oocyte-expressed α1β3γ2L γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors using voltage clamp electrophysiology. Using the same technique, the ability of naphthalene–etomidate to reduce currents evoked by γ-aminobutyric acid alone or γ-aminobutyric acid potentiated by etomidate, propofol, pentobarbital, and diazepam was quantified. The binding affinity of naphthalene–etomidate to the transmembrane anesthetic binding sites of the γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptor was determined from its ability to inhibit receptor photoaffinity labeling by the site-selective photolabels [3H]azi-etomidate and R-[3H]5-allyl-1-methyl-5-(m-trifluoromethyl-diazirynylphenyl) barbituric acid.


In contrast to etomidate, naphthalene–etomidate only weakly potentiated γ-aminobutyric acid–evoked currents and induced little direct activation even at a near-saturating aqueous concentration. It inhibited labeling of γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors by [3H]azi-etomidate and R-[3H]5-allyl-1-methyl-5-(m-trifluoromethyl-diazirynylphenyl) barbituric acid with similar half-maximal inhibitory concentrations of 48 μM (95% CI, 28 to 81 μM) and 33 μM (95% CI, 20 to 54 μM). It also reduced the positive modulatory actions of anesthetics (propofol > etomidate ~ pentobarbital) but not those of γ-aminobutyric acid or diazepam. At 300 μM, naphthalene–etomidate increased the half-maximal potentiating propofol concentration from 6.0 μM (95% CI, 4.4 to 8.0 μM) to 36 μM (95% CI, 17 to 78 μM) without affecting the maximal response obtained at high propofol concentrations.


Naphthalene–etomidate is a very low-efficacy etomidate analog that exhibits the pharmacology of an anesthetic competitive antagonist at the γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptor.

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