GABAergic drugs become neurotoxic in cortical neurons pre-exposed to brain-derived neurotrophic factor

Gemma Molinaro, Giuseppe Battaglia, Barbara Riozzi, Marianna Storto, Sergio Fucile, Fabrizio Eusebi, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Valeria Bruno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A 24-h pretreatment with BNDF enhanced excitotoxic neuronal death in cultured mouse cortical cells challenged with NMDA in the presence of extracellular Mg2+. The GABAA receptor antagonist, bicuculline, enhanced NMDA toxicity in control cultures but, unexpectedly, became neuroprotective in cultures pretreated with BDNF. In contrast, drugs that activate GABAA receptors (e.g. muscimol, benzodiazepines, or phenobarbital) or drugs that indirectly enhance GABAergic transmission were protective in control cultures but amplified NMDA toxicity after pretreatment with BDNF. The atypical behaviour of GABAergic drugs in cultures pretreated with BDNF depended on changes in the anion reversal potential because (i) increases in extracellular Cl- concentrations abolished the neurotoxic action of muscimol; (ii) muscimol stimulated 36Cl- efflux after pretreatment with BDNF; and (iii) exposure to BDNF reduced the expression of the neuronal K+/Cl- co-transporter, KCC2. Our data raise the concern that GABAergic drugs may become neurotoxic under conditions associated with increases in brain BDNF levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-322
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • BDNF
  • GABAA receptors
  • Neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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