Carisoprodol-mediated modulation of GABA A receptors: In vitro and in vivo studies

Lorie A. Gonzalez, Michael B. Gatch, Cynthia M. Taylor, Cathy L. Bell-Horner, Michael J. Forster, Glenn H. Dillon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Carisoprodol is a frequently prescribed muscle relaxant. In recent years, this drug has been increasingly abused. The effects of carisoprodol have been attributed to its metabolite, meprobamate, a controlled substance that produces sedation via GABA A receptors (GABA ARs). Given the structural similarities between carisoprodol and meprobamate, we used electrophysiological and behavioral approaches to investigate whether carisoprodol directly affects GABA AR function. In whole-cell patch-clamp studies, carisoprodol allosterically modulated and directly activated human α1β2γ2 GABA AR function in a barbiturate-like manner. At millimolar concentrations, inhibitory effects were apparent. Similar allosteric effects were not observed for homomeric p1 GABA or glycine α1 receptors. In the absence of GABA, carisoprodol produced picrotoxin-sensitive, inward currents that were significantly larger than those produced by meprobamate, suggesting cari- soprodol may directly produce GABAergic effects in vivo. When administered to mice via intraperitoneal or oral routes, carisoprodol elicited locomotor depression within 8 to 12 min after injection. Intraperitoneal administration of meprobamate depressed locomotor activity in the same time frame. In drug discrimination studies with carisoprodol-trained rats, the GABAergic ligands pentobarbital, chlordiazepoxide, and meprobamate each substituted for carisoprodol in a dose-dependent manner. In accordance with findings in vitro, the discriminative stimulus effects of carisoprodol were antagonized by a barbiturate antagonist, bemegride, but not by the benzodiazepine site antagonist, flumazenil. The results of our studies in vivo and in vitro collectively suggest the barbiturate-like effects of carisoprodol may not be due solely to its metabolite, meprobamate. Furthermore, the functional traits we have identified probably contribute to the abuse potential of carisoprodol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-837
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009


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