Neurosteroids Induce Allosteric Effects on the NMDA Receptor : Nanomolar Concentrations of Neurosteroids Exert Non-Genomic Effects on the NMDA Receptor Complex

Abstract: The neurosteroids constitute a group of powerful hormones synthesized and acting in the central nervous system. They participate in a number of important central processes, such as memory and learning, mood and neuroprotection. Their effects emerge from rapid interactions with membrane bound receptors, such as the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, the gamma-amino-butyric acid receptor and the sigma 1 receptor. The mechanisms of action are separate from classical genomic interactions. The aims of this thesis were to identify and characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of nanomolar concentrations of neurosteroids at the NMDA receptor. The results show that the neurosteroids pregnenolone sulfate (PS) and pregnanolone sulfate 3α5βS) differently modulate the NMDA receptor, changing the kinetics for the NMDA receptor antagonist ifenprodil, through unique and separate targets at the NR2B subunit. The effects that appear to be temperature independent were further confirmed in a calcium imagining functional assay. A second functional study demonstrated that PS and 3α5βS affect glutamate-stimulated neurite outgrowth in NG108-15 cells. Misuse of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) has powerful effects on emotional states. Since neurosteroids regulate processes involved in mood it can be hypothesised that AAS can interact with the action of neurosteroids in the brain. However, chronic administration of the AAS nandrolone decanoate did not alter the allosteric effects of PS or 3α5βS at the NMDA receptor, but changed the affinity for PS, 3α5βS and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate to the sigma 1 receptor. The results also showed that the neurosteroids displace 3H-ifenprodil from the sigma 1 and 2 receptors without directly sharing the binding site for 3H-ifenprodil at the sigma 1 receptor. The decreased affinity for the neurosteroids at the sigma 1 receptor may be involved in the depressive symptoms associated with AAS misuse.The NMDA receptor system is deeply involved in neurodegeneration and the NMDA receptor antagonist ifenprodil exert neuroprotective actions. The findings that neurosteroids interact with ifenprodil at the NMDA receptor may be an opportunity to obtain synergistic effects in neuroprotective treatment.