The neurosteroid allopregnanolone (3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one; AP) elicits pleiotropic effects in the central nervous system, ranging from neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory functions to the regulation of mood and emotional responses. Several lines of research show that the brain rapidly produces AP in response to acute stress to reduce the allostatic load and enhance coping. These effects not only are likely mediated by GABAA receptor activation but also result from the contributions of other mechanisms, such as the stimulation of membrane progesterone receptors. In keeping with this evidence, AP has been shown to exert rapid, potent antidepressant properties and has been recently approved for the therapy of moderate-to-severe postpartum depression. In addition to depression, emerging evidence points to the potential of AP as a therapy for other neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder and cognitive problems. Although this evidence has spurred interest in further therapeutic applications of AP, some investigations suggest that this neurosteroid may also be associated with adverse events in specific disorders. For example, our group has recently documented that AP increases tic-like manifestations in several animal models of tic disorders; furthermore, our results indicate that inhibiting AP synthesis and signalling reduces the exacerbation of tic severity associated with acute stress. Although the specific mechanisms of these effects remain partially elusive, our findings point to the possibility that the GABAergic activation by AP may also lead to disinhibitory effects, which could interfere with the ability of patients to suppress their tics. Future studies will be necessary to verify whether these mechanisms may apply to other externalising manifestations, such as impulse-control problems and manic symptoms.
- animal models
- Tourette’s disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience