GABA, γ-hydroxybutyric acid, and neurological disease

Authors

  • C. Guin Ting Wong,

    1. Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine
    2. Brain and Behavior Research Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • Teodoro Bottiglieri,

    1. Baylor Institute of Metabolic Disease, Dallas, TX
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  • O. Carter Snead III

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine
    2. Brain and Behavior Research Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    3. Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine
    4. Division of Neurology, Baylor Institute of Metabolic Disease, Dallas, TX
    • Division of Neurology, Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada M5G 1X8
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Abstract

γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA is converted from glutamic acid by the action of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) of which two isoforms exist GAD65 and GAD67. GABA then is broken down, both within the cell and in the synaptic cleft by GABA transaminase to form succinic semialdehyde. In turn, succinic semialdehyde is converted either to succinic acid by succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase or into γ-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) by succinic semialdehyde reductase. Because GABA modulates the majority of inhibition that is ongoing in the brain, perturbations in GABAergic inhibition have the potential to result in seizures. Therefore, the most common disorder in which GABA is targeted as a treatment is epilepsy. However, other disorders such as psychiatric disease, spasticity, and stiff-person syndrome all have been related to disorders of GABAergic function in the brain. This review covers the roles of GABAergic neurotransmission in epilepsy, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, stiff-person syndrome, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In the final section of this review, the GABA metabolite GHB is discussed in terms of its physiological significance and its role in epilepsy, sleep disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, and an inborn error of GABA metabolism, succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase deficiency. Ann Neurol 2003;54 (suppl 6):S3–S12

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