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RATIONALE: Assays of schedule-controlled responding can be used to characterize the pharmacology of benzodiazepines and other GABAA receptor modulators, and are sensitive to changes in drug effects that are related to physical dependence.

OBJECTIVE: The present study used this approach to investigate the role of GABAA receptor subtypes in mediating dependence-like effects following benzodiazepine administration.

METHODS: Squirrel monkeys (n = 6) were trained on a fixed-ratio schedule of food reinforcement. Initially, the response rate-decreasing effects of chlordiazepoxide (0.1-10 mg/kg; nonselective GABAA receptor agonist), zolpidem (0.032-1.0 mg/kg; α1 subunit-containing GABAA subtype-preferring agonist), and HZ-166 (0.1-10 mg/kg; functionally selective α2 and α3 subunit-containing GABAA receptor agonist) were assessed. Next, acute dependence-like effects following single injections of chlordiazepoxide, zolpidem, and HZ-166 were assessed with flumazenil (0.1-3.2 mg/kg; nonselective GABAA receptor antagonist). Finally, acute dependence-like effects following zolpidem administration were assessed with βCCt and 3-PBC (0.1-3.2 mg/kg and 0.32-10 mg/kg, respectively; α1 subunit-containing GABAA receptor antagonists).

RESULTS: Chlordiazepoxide, zolpidem, and HZ-166 produced dose- and time-dependent decreases in response rates, whereas flumazenil, βCCT, and 3-PBC were ineffective. After the drug effects waned, flumazenil produced dose-dependent decreases in response rates following administration of 10 mg/kg chlordiazepoxide and 1.0 mg/kg zolpidem, but not following any dose of HZ-166. Further, both βCCT and 3-PBC produced dose-dependent decreases in response rates when administered after 1.0 mg/kg zolpidem.

CONCLUSIONS: These data raise the possibility that α1 subunit-containing GABAA receptors play a major role in physical dependence-related behaviors following a single injection of a benzodiazepine.