Targeting GABAB receptors for anti-abuse drug discovery.
GABA(B) receptor-positive modulators are thought to have advantages as potential medications for anxiety, depression, and drug addiction. They may have fewer side effects than GABA(B) receptor agonists, because selective enhancement of activated receptors could have effects different from nonselective activation of all receptors. To examine this, pigeons were trained to discriminate the GABA(B) receptor-positive modulator (R,S)-5,7-di-tert-butyl-3-hydroxy-3-trifluoromethyl-3H-benzofuran-2-one (rac-BHFF) from its vehicle. The discriminative stimulus effects of rac-BHFF were not mimicked by the GABA(B) receptor agonists baclofen and γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), not by diazepam, and not by alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine, whose self-administration has been reported to be attenuated by GABA(B) receptor-positive modulators. The discriminative stimulus effects of rac-BHFF were not antagonized by the GABA(B) receptor antagonist 3-aminopropyl (diethoxymethyl)phosphinic acid (CGP35348) but were attenuated by the less efficacious GABA(B) receptor-positive modulator 2,6-di-tert-butyl-4-(3-hydroxy-2,2-dimethylpropyl)phenol (CGP7930), suggesting the possibility that rac-BHFF produces its discriminative stimulus effects by directly activating GABA(B2) subunits of GABA(B) receptors. At a dose 10-fold lower than the training dose, rac-BHFF enhanced the discriminative stimulus effects of baclofen, but not of GHB. This study provides evidence that the effects of GABA(B) receptor-positive modulators are not identical to those of GABA(B) receptor agonists. In addition, the results suggest that positive modulation of GABA(B) receptors does not produce discriminative stimulus effects similar to those of benzodiazepines, alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine. Finally, the finding that rac-BHFF enhanced effects of baclofen but not of GHB is consistent with converging evidence that the populations of GABA(B) receptors mediating the effects of baclofen and GHB are not identical.