Benzodiazepine Receptor Binding of Triazolobenzodiazepines In Vivo: Increased Receptor Number with Low‐Dose Alprazolam

Lawrence G. Miller, David J. Greenblatt, Jamie G. Barnhill, Stephen I. Deutsch, Richard I. Shader, Steven M. Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Abstract: Triazolobenzodiazepines are in clinical use as hypnotics and anxiolytics. We analyzed in vivo receptor binding and brain concentrations of alprazolam, triazolam, and estazolam. Drug concentrations measured in the cerebral cortex 1 h after administration were directly proportional to dose for all three compounds. In vivo receptor binding, as defined by the specific uptake of [3H]Ro 15–1788, decreased with increasing doses of estazolam and triazolam, a finding indicating dose‐related increases in receptor occupancy due to these compounds. Triazolam was substantially more potent, with an IC50 value of 16 ng/g, compared with 117 ng/g for estazolam. At higher doses of alprazolam (>0.2 mg/kg), receptor binding by [3H]Ro 15–1788 likewise decreased with increasing dose of the former drug. However, at lower doses of alprazolam (0.02–0.05 mg/kg), which resulted in cortex concentrations of 2–7 ng/g, receptor binding was increased above control values in cortex, hypothalamus, and hippocampus but not in several other brain regions. Binding returned to control values at doses of ≤0.01 mg/kg. Similar results were obtained in time course studies. At 8 and 10 h after a dose of 1 mg/kg i.p., corresponding to cortex concentrations of 2.7–7 ng/g, receptor binding was increased compared with controls. Similarly, at 1, 2, and 3 h after a single dose of 0.05 mg/kg, corresponding to cortex concentrations of 3.7–5.8 ng/g, receptor binding was also increased. The apparent affinity of benzodiazepine receptors for clonazepam in mice receiving alprazolam (0.05 mg/kg) was unchanged from that in untreated control mice, an observation suggesting that low doses of alprazolam increased receptor number. The brain concentration vs. receptor occupancy relationships for triazolam and estazolam resemble those for other benzodiaze‐pines, but alprazolam appears to be anomalous in that low brain concentrations increase benzodiazepine receptor number.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1595-1601
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1987


  • Alprazolam
  • Estazolam
  • Receptor
  • Triazolam
  • Triazolobenzodiazepine


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