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Carai MA, Colombo G, Reali R, Serra S, Mocci I, Castelli MP, Cignarella G, Gessa GL. 
“Central effects of 1,4-butanediol are mediated by GABA(B) receptors via its conversion into gamma-hydroxybutyric acid”. 
Eur J Pharmacol. 2002 Apr 13;441(3):157-63.
The aliphatic alcohol 1,4-butanediol in converted into gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) via two enzymatic steps: first, it is oxidised by alcohol dehydrogenase in gamma-hydroxybutyraldehyde; second, the latter is transformed, likely by aldehyde dehydrogenase, into GHB. Initially, the present study compared the sedative/hypnotic effect of GHB and 1,4-butanediol, measured as loss of righting reflex. 1,4-Butanediol was more potent than GHB, presumably because of a more rapid penetration of the blood brain barrier. Further alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitors, 4-methylpyrazole and ethanol, totally prevented the sedative/hypnotic effect of 1,4-butanediol; the aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor disulfiram partially blocked the sedative/hypnotic effect of 1,4-butanediol. Finally, the sedative/hypnotic effect of 1,4-butanediol was antagonised by the GABA(B) receptor antagonists, SCH 50911 [(2S)(+)-5,5-dimethyl-2-morpholineacetic acid] and CGP 46381 [(3-aminopropyl)(cyclohexylmethyl)phosphinic acid], but not by the putative GHB receptor antagonist NCS-382 (6,7,8,9-tetrahydro-5-hydroxy-5H-benzocyclohept-6-ylideneacetic acid), indicating that it is mediated by GABA(B) but not GHB receptors. Taken together, these results suggest that the sedative/hypnotic effect of 1,4-butanediol is mediated by its conversion in vivo into GHB which, in turn, binds to GABA(B) receptors. Accordingly 1,4-butanediol, unlike GHB, failed to displace [(3)H]GHB and [(3)H]baclofen in brain membranes.
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