Mechanisms of Action of Antiepileptic Drugs
Piotr Czapinski, Barbara Blaszczyk and Stanislaw J. Czuczwar
Affiliation: Isotope Laboratory, Institute of Agricultural Medicine, Jaczewskiego 2, 20-950 Lublin, Poland.
Keywords: antiepileptic drugs, gaba, glutamate, ion channels, epilepsy
γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain, interacts with three types of receptors for GABA - GABAA, GABAB and GABAC. GABAA receptors, associated with binding sites for benzodiazepines and barbiturates in the form of a receptor complex, control opening of the chloride channel. When GABA binds to the receptor complex, the channel is opened and chloride anions enter the neuron, which is finally hyperpolarized. GABAB receptors are metabotropic, linked to a cascade of second messengers whilst the physiological meaning of ionotropic GABAC receptors, mainly located in the retina, is generally unknown. Novel antiepileptic drugs acting selectively through the GABA-ergic system are tiagabine and vigabatrin. The former inhibits neuronal and glial uptake of GABA whilst the latter increases the synaptic concentration of GABA by inhibition of GABA-aminotransferase. Gabapentin, designed as a precursor of GABA easily entering the brain, was shown to increase brain synaptic GABA. This antiepileptic drug also decreases influx of calcium ions into neurons via a specific subunit of voltage-dependent calcium channels. Conventional antiepileptics generally inhibit sodium currents (carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, valproate) or enhance GABA-ergic inhibition (benzodiazepines, phenobarbital, valproate). Ethosuximide, mainly controlling absences, reduces calcium currents via T-type calcium channels. Novel antiepileptic drugs, mainly associated with an inhibition of voltage-dependent sodium channels are lamotrigine and oxcarbazepine. Since glutamate-mediated excitation is involved in the generation of seizure activity, some antiepileptics are targeting glutamatergic receptors - for instance, felbamate, phenobarbital, and topiramate. Besides, they also inhibit sodium currents. Zonisamide, apparently sharing this common mechanism, also reduces the concentration of free radicals. Novel antiepileptic drugs are better tolerated by epileptic patients and practically are devoid of important pharmacokinetic drug interactions.
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