1 Strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors are primarily localized in the brainstem and spinal cord where they are the major mediators of postsynaptic inhibition. A compound which acts functionally like a glycine receptor agonist would be potentially useful as a pharmacological tool and as a therapeutic agent for treating disorders of glycinergic transmission.
2 MDL 27,531 (4-methyl-3-methylsulphonyl-5-phenyl-4H-1,2,4-triazole) blocked strychnine-induced tonic extensor seizures in mice following either intraperitoneal (ED50 = 12.8 mg kg-1; 30 min) or oral (ED50 = 7.3 mg kg-1; 30 min) administration. Time course studies revealed a maximal effect at 30–60 min, though significant activity was still seen after 24 h.
3 MDL 27,531 was selective in antagonizing strychnine seizures and little or no activity was seen against seizures produced by other chemical convulsants (bicuculline; quinolinic acid; mercaptopropionic acid); by electrical stimuli (maximal electroshock); or by sensory stimuli (audiogenic seizure susceptible mice). MDL 27,531 blocked pentylenetetrazol-induced seizures with an ED50 = 55 mg kg-1. This profile differed from those of the anticonvulsants diazepam, valproic acid, and diphenylhydantoin.
4 The antagonism of strychnine seizures by MDL 27,531 occurred at doses that did not produce signs of sedation (suppression of spontaneous motor activity), motor ataxia (disruption of rotarod performance), muscle relaxation (inhibition of morphine-induced Straub tail), or CNS depression (potentiation of hexobarbitone sleep time). MDL 27,531 had less side effect potential (as derived from ratios obtained from the above measures) relative to those of the known muscle relaxants diazepam and baclofen.
5 Although MDL 27,531 behaved functionally like a selective agonist at the strychnine-sensitive glycine receptor, the compound did not alter the in vitro binding of [3H]-strychnine to mice brainstem/spinal cord membranes at concentrations of up to 100 μM. In further in vitro binding assays, MDL 27,531 at concentrations of up to 100 μM, did not displace the binding of [3H]-muscimol, [3H]-flunitrazepam, or [35S]-t-butylbicyclophosphorthionate to rat cortical membranes. These ligands bind to the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), benzodiazepine, and picrotoxin-convulsant binding sites, respectively.
6 MDL 27,531 (10–100 mg kg-1, i.p.) enhanced binding of the benzodiazepine antagonist [3H]-Ro 15-1788 to mouse cerebral cortex in vivo without directly affecting GABA levels.
7 Ro 15-1788 (16, 32 mg kg-1) significantly blocked the MDL 27,531 antagonism of strychnine-induced seizures, though this antagonism was not competitive. The same doses of Ro 15-1788 produced parallel rightward shifts in the dose-response curves for diazepam inhibition of pentylenetetrazol-induced seizures, consistent with a competitive antagonism.
8 Thus, MDL 27,531 acts functionally like an agonist at the strychnine-sensitive glycine receptor in its capacity to reverse selectively strychnine-induced seizures. Though the precise mechanism of action of MDL 27,531 is unknown, MDL 27,531 may act at an allosteric site on the strychnine-sensitive receptor which produces agonist-like activity.