[3H]Bicuculline Methochloride Binding to Low‐Affinity γ‐Aminobutyric Acid Receptor Sites

Richard W. Olsen, Adele M. Snowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Abstract: The binding of [3H]bicuculline methochloride (BMC) to mammalian brain membranes was characterized and compared with that of [3H]γ‐aminobutyric acid ([3H]GABA). The radiolabeled GABA receptor antagonist showed significant displaceable binding in Tris‐citrate buffer that was improved by high concentrations of chloride, iodide, or thiocyanate, reaching >50% displacement in the presence of 0.1 M SCN. An apparent single class of binding sites for [3H]BMC (KD= 30 nM) was observed in 0.1 M SCN for fresh or frozen rat cortex or several regions of frozen and thawed bovine brain. The Bmax was about 2 pmol bound/mg of crude mitochondrial plus microsomal membranes from unfrozen washed and osmotically shocked rat cortex, similar to that for [3H]GABA. Frozen membranes, however, showed decreased levels of [3H]BMC binding with no decrease or an actual increase in [3H]GABA binding sites. [3H]BMC binding was inhibited by GABA receptor specific ligands, but showed a higher affinity for antagonists and lower affinity for agonists than did [3H]GABA binding. Kinetics experiments with [3H]GABA binding revealed that low‐ and high‐affinity sites showed a similar pharmacological specificity for a series of GABA receptor ligands, but that whereas all agonists had a higher affinity for slowly dissociating high‐affinity [3H]GABA sites, bicuculline had a higher affinity for rapidly dissociating low‐affinity [3H]GABA sites. This reverse potency between agonists and antagonists during assay of radioactive antagonists or agonists supports the existence of agonist‐ and antagonist‐preferring conformational states or subpopulations of GABA receptors. The differential affinities, as well as opposite effects on agonist and antagonist binding by anions, membrane freezing, and other treatments, suggest that [3H]BMC may relatively selectively label low‐affinity GABA receptor agonist sites. This study, using a new commercially available preparation of [3H]bicuculline methochloride, confirms the report of bicuculline methiodide binding by Mohler and Okada (1978), and suggests that this radioactive GABA antagonist will be a valuable probe in analyzing various aspects of GABA receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1653-1663
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • Benzodiazepine
  • Bicuculline methiodide
  • Bicuculline methochloride
  • Receptor sites
  • γ‐Aminobutyric acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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