The actions of drug combinations on the gabaa receptor manifest as curvilinear isoboles of additivity

Daniel J. Shin, Allison L. Germann, Joe Henry Steinbach, Gustav Akk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Drug interactions are often analyzed in terms of isobolograms. In the isobologram, the line connecting the axial points corresponding to the concentrations of two different drugs that produce an effect of the same magnitude is termed an isobole of additivity. Although the isobole of additivity can be a straight line in some special cases, previous work has proposed that it is curvilinear when the two drugs differ in their maximal effects or Hill slopes. Modulators of transmitter-gated ion channels have a wide range of maximal effects as well as Hill slopes, suggesting that the isoboles for drug actions on ion channel function are not linear. In this study, we have conducted an analysis of direct activation and potentiation of the human a1b2g2L GABAA receptor to demonstrate that: 1) curvilinear isoboles of additivity are predicted by a concerted transition model where the binding of each GABAergic drug additively and independently reduces the free energy of the open receptor compared with the closed receptor; and 2) experimental data for receptor activation using the agonist pair of GABA and propofol or potentiation of responses to a low concentration of GABA by the drug pair of alfaxalone and propofol agree very well with predictions. The approach assuming independent energetic contributions from GABAergic drugs enables, at least for the drug combinations tested, a straightforward method to accurately predict functional responses to any combination of concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-563
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2017


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