Diazepam-induced changes in sleep: Role of the α1 GABAA receptor subtype

Irene Tobler, Caroline Kopp, Tom Deboer, Uwe Rudolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ligands acting at the benzodiazepine (BZ) site of γ-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors currently are the most widely used hypnotics. BZs such as diazepam (Dz) potentiate GABAA receptor activation. To determine the GABAA receptor subtypes that mediate the hypnotic action of Dz wild-type mice and mice that harbor Dz-insensitive α1 GABAA receptors [α1 (H101R) mice] were compared. Sleep latency and the amount of sleep after Dz treatment were not affected by the point mutation. An initial reduction of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep also occurred equally in both genotypes. Furthermore, the Dz-induced changes in the sleep and waking electroencephalogram (EEG) spectra, the increase in power density above 21 Hz in non-REM sleep and waking, and the suppression of slow-wave activity (SWA; EEG power in the 0.75- to 4.0-Hz band) in non-REM sleep were present in both genotypes. Surprisingly, these effects were even more pronounced in α1(H101R) mice and sleep continuity was enhanced by Dz only in the mutants. Interestingly, Dz did not affect the initial surge of SWA at the transitions to sleep, indicating that the SWA-generating mechanisms are not impaired by the BZ. We conclude that the REM sleep inhibiting action of Dz and its effect on the EEG spectra in sleep and waking are mediated by GABAA receptors other than α1, i.e., α2, α3, or α5 GABAA receptors. Because α1 GABAA receptors mediate the sedative action of Dz, our results provide evidence that the hypnotic effect of Dz and its EEG "fingerprint" can be dissociated from its sedative action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6464-6469
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 22 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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