Endogenous neurosteroids and synthetic neuroactive steroids (NAS) are important targets for therapeutic development in neuropsychiatric disorders. These steroids modulate major signaling systems in the brain and intracellular processes including inflammation, cellular stress and autophagy. In this review, we describe studies performed using unnatural enantiomers of key neurosteroids, which are physiochemically identical to their natural counterparts except for rotation of polarized light. These studies led to insights in how NAS interact with receptors, ion channels and intracellular sites of action. Certain effects of NAS show high enantioselectivity, consistent with actions in chiral environments and likely direct interactions with signaling proteins. Other effects show no enantioselectivity and even reverse enantioselectivity. The spectrum of effects of NAS enantiomers raises the possibility that these agents, once considered only as tools for preclinical studies, have therapeutic potential that complements and in some cases may exceed their natural counterparts. Here we review studies of NAS enantiomers from the perspective of their potential development as novel neurotherapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105191
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Allopregnanolone
  • Calcium channels
  • GABA receptors
  • NMDA receptors
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Neuroprotection
  • Pregnanolone
  • Pregnenolone sulfate


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