Background and purpose: Fipronil is the active ingredient in a number of widely used insecticides. Human exposure to fipronil leads to symptoms (headache, nausea and seizures) typically associated with the antagonism of GABA A receptors in the brain. In this study, we have examined the modulation of the common brain GABA A receptor subtype by fipronil and its major metabolite, fipronil sulphone. Experimental approach: Whole-cell and single-channel recordings were made from HEK 293 cells transiently expressing rat α1β2γ2L GABA A receptors. Key results: The major effect of fipronil was to increase the rate of current decay in macroscopic recordings. In single-channel recordings, the presence of fipronil resulted in shorter cluster durations without affecting the intracluster open and closed time distributions or the single-channel conductance. The α1V256S mutation, previously shown alleviate channel inhibition by inhibitory steroids and several insecticides, had a relatively small effect on channel block by fipronil. The mode of action of fipronil sulphone was similar to that of its parent compound but the metabolite was less potent at inhibiting the α1β2γ2L receptor. Conclusions and implications: We conclude that exposure to fipronil induces accumulation of receptors in a novel, long-lived blocked state. This process proceeds in parallel with and independently of, channel desensitization. The lower potency of fipronil sulphone indicates that the conversion serves as a detoxifying process in mammalian brain.
- GABA receptor
- Ion channel