Neuroprotective properties of the benzodiazepine receptor, partial agonist PNU-101017 in the gerbil forebrain ischemia model

Edward D. Hall, Paula K. Andrus, Timothy J. Fleck, Jo A. Oostveen, Donald B. Carter, E. Jon Jacobsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


PNU-101017 is a novel, imidazoquinoline amide and benzodiazepine receptor partial agonist that has high affinity for the GABA(A) receptor subtypes containing the α1 and α3 or α5 subunits. At each of these receptors, the compound is a partial agonist with approximately 50% of the intrinsic activity of the full agonist diazepam. In view of the previously demonstrated anti-ischemic effects of some GABA agonists, the purpose of this study was to determine the ability of PNU101017 to salvage selectively vulnerable neuronal populations in the gerbil forebrain ischemia model. In an initial set of experiments, male gerbils were pretreated 30 minutes before ischemia induction (5 minutes) with PNU-101017 (3, 10, or 30 mg/kg intraperitoneally) and again 2 hours after reperfusion. In vehicle (0.05 N HCl)-treated gerbils, the loss of hippocampal CA1 neurons at 5 days was 80%. PNU-101017 was shown to produce a dose-related increase in CA1 neuronal survival; at either 10 or 30 mg/kg, the loss of CA1 neurons was only 21% (P < 0.005 versus vehicle). A second experiment, examined the therapeutic window for PNU-101017 using the dose level of 30 mg/kg intraperitoneally. Administration of the first of two doses (2 hours apart) at the time of reperfusion resulted in an identical decrease in CA1 damage at 5 days to that seen with preischemic treatment (P < 0.003 versus vehicle). Even with a delay of the initial dosing until 4 hours after reperfusion, PNU101017 reduced CA1 neuronal loss to only 32% (P < 0.01 versus vehicle). In a third experiment in which the duration of the ischemic insult was increased to 10 minutes and the brains were not analyzed until 28 days after ischemia, daily PNU101017 dosing for the full 28 days still significantly preserved CA1 neurons, although less effectively than in the milder 5 minute-ischemia model. The loss of dopaminergic nigrostriatal neurons was also reduced. The neuroprotective effect of PNU101017 was not associated with any overt CNS depression and it did not correlate with hypothermia. This benzodiazepine-receptor partial agonist may have potential for the treatment of global cerebral ischemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-883
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1997


  • GABA(A) receptor
  • Gerbil
  • Hippocampal CA1 neurons
  • Ischemia
  • Nigrostriatal Neurons
  • PNU-101017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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