In the central nervous system of both vertebrates and invertebrates inhibitory neurotransmission is mainly achieved through activation of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. Extensive studies have established the structural and pharmacological properties of vertebrate GABA receptors. Although the vast majority of insect GABA-sensitive responses share some properties with vertebrate GABAA receptors, peculiar pharmacological properties of these receptors led us to think that several GABA-gated chloride channels are present in insects. We describe here the pharmacological properties of two GABA receptor subtypes coupled to a chloride channel on dorsal unpaired median (DUM) neurones of the adult male cockroach. Long applications of GABA induce a large biphasic hyperpolarization, consisting of an initial transient hyperpolarization followed by a slow phase of hyperpolarization that is not quickly desensitized. With GABA, the transient hyperpolarization is sensitive to picrotoxinin, fipronil and dieldrin whereas the slow response is insensitive to these insecticides. When GABA is replaced by muscimol and cis-4-aminocrotonic acid (CACA) a biphasic hyperpolarization consisting of an initial transient hyperpolarization followed by a sustained phase is evoked which is blocked by picrotoxinin and fipronil. Exposure to dieldrin decreases only the early phase of the muscimol and CACA-induced biphasic response, suggesting that two GABA-gated chloride channel receptor subtypes are present in DUM neurones. This study describes, for the first time, a dieldrin resistant component different to the dieldrin- and picrotoxinin-resistant receptor found in several insect species. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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