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Gamma-aminobutyric acid

Drugs & Medication

Gamma-aminobutyric acid

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Gamma-aminobutyric acid (usually abbreviated to GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter found in the nervous systems of widely divergent species. It is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate central nervous system.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid
Gamma-aminobutyric acid
Systematic name 4-aminobutanoic acid
Other names GABA
Molecular formula C4H9NO2
Molar mass 103.12 g/mol
Appearance white solid
CAS number 56-12-2
Solubility in water  ? g/100 ml (? C) or 0.5 M (20 C)
Melting point 203C (476 K)
Acidity (pKa) 10.43
Basicity (pKb) 9.77
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25 C, 100 kPa)


Action and receptors

In vertebrates, GABA acts at inhibitory synapses in the brain. GABA acts by binding to specific receptors in the plasma membrane of both pre- and postsynaptic neurons. This binding causes the opening of ion channels to allow either the flow of negatively-charged chloride ions into the cell or positively-charged potassium ions out of the cell. This will typically result in a negative change in the transmembrane potential, usually causing hyperpolarization.

Three general classes of GABA receptor are known. These include GABAA and GABAC ionotropic receptors, which are ion channels themselves, and GABAB metabotropic receptors, which are G protein-coupled receptors that open ion channels via intermediaries (G proteins).

Neurons that produce GABA as their output are called GABAergic neurons, and have chiefly inhibitory action at receptors in the vertebrate. Medium Spiny Cells are a typical example of inhibitory CNS GABAergic cells. GABA exhibits excitatory actions in insects, mediating muscle activation at synapses between nerves and muscle cells and also the stimulation of certain glands. GABA has also been shown to have excitatory roles in the vertebrate, most notably in the developing cortex.


Organisms synthesize GABA from glutamate using the enzyme L-glutamic acid decarboxylase and pyridoxal phosphate as a cofactor. It is worth noting that this involves converting the principal excitatory neurotransmitter (glutamate) into the principal inhibitory one (GABA).


Drugs that act as agonists of GABA receptors (known as GABA analogues or GABAergic drugs) or increase the available amount of GABA typically have relaxing, anti-anxiety and anti-convulsive effects. Many of the substances below are known to cause short-term memory loss and retrograde amnesia.

Drugs that affect GABA receptors:

Drugs that affect GABA in other ways:

  • tiagabine - potentiates by inhibiting uptake into neurons and glia
  • vigabatrin - potentiates by inhibiting GABA-T, preventing GABA breakdown

External links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.