Melatonin modulates the GABAergic response in cultured rat hippocampal neurons

Xin Ping Cheng, Hao Sun, Zeng You Ye, Jiang Ning Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, we investigated the effect of melatonin on the GABA-induced current (IGABA) and GABAergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) in cultured rat hippocampal neurons using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. We found that melatonin rapidly and reversibly enhanced IGABA in a dose-dependent manner, with an EC50 of 949 μM. Melatonin markedly enhanced the peak amplitude of a subsaturating IGABA but not that of a saturating IGABA. Interestingly, melatonin was effective only when GABA and melatonin were applied together. Furthermore, the effect of melatonin on IGABA was voltage-independent and did not change the ion selectivity of the GABAA receptor. The melatonin enhancement on IGABA can not be blocked by luzindole, a melatonin receptor antagonist, indicating that melatonin-induced I GABA enhancement was not via activation of its own membrane receptors. However, this enhancement may be mediated via high-affinity benzodiazepine sites as it was inhibited by the classical benzodiazepine antagonist flumazenil, suggesting an allosteric modulation of melatonin by binding to the sites of GABAA receptors. In addition, melatonin increased both amplitude and frequency of GABAergic mIPSCs, indicating that melatonin enhances GABAergic inhibitory transmission. Hence, our observation that melatonin has an enhancing effect on the GABAergic system may implicate a potential pathway for the neuroprotective effects of melatonin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-185
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


  • GABA receptor
  • GABAergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic current (mIPSC)
  • Hippocampal neuron
  • Melatonin
  • Whole-cell patch-clamp technique

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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