GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain where it acts at GABAA receptors, which are ligand-gatedchloride channels. Chloride conductance of these channels can be modulated by agents such as benzodiazepines that bind to the GABAA receptor. At least 16 distinct subunits of GABAA receptors have been identified. Transcript variants utilizing three different alternative non-coding first exons have been described.
Recent research has produced several ligands which are moderately selective for GABAA receptors containing the α5 subunit. These have proved to be useful in investigating some of the side effects of benzodiazepine and nonbenzodiazepine drugs, particularly the effects on learning and memory such as anterograde amnesia. Inverse agonists at this subunit have nootropic effects and may be useful for the treatment of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
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