Stress-induced elevations of γ-aminobutyric acid type a receptor-active steroids in the rat brain

Robert H. Purdy, A. Leslie Morrow, Perry H. Moore, Steven M. Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

890 Scopus citations


A 3α-hydroxy A-ring-reduced metabolite of progesterone, 3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one (allopregnanolone), and one of deoxycorticosterone (DOC), 3α,21-dihydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one (allotetrahydroDOC), are among the most potent known ligands of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors designated GABAA in the central nervous system. With specific radioimmunoassays, rapid (<5 min) and robust (4- to 20-fold) increases of allopregnanolone and allotetrahydroDOC were detected in the brain (cerebral cortex and hypothalamus) and in plasma of rats after exposure to ambient temperature swim stress. Neither steroid was detectable in the plasma of adrenalectomized rats either before or after swim stress. However, allopregnanolone, but not allotetrahydroDOC, was still present in the cerebral cortex (>3 ng/g) after adrenalectomy. These data demonstrate the presence of allopregnanolone and allotetrahydroDOC in brain and show that acute stress results in a rapid increase of these neuroactive steroids to levels known to modulate GABAA receptor function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4553-4557
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 1991


  • Allopregnanolone
  • Allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone
  • Endogenous ligands
  • GABA receptors
  • Stress


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