Differential depression of neuronal network activity by midazolam and its main metabolite 1-hydroxymidazolam in cultured neocortical slices

Monika Balk, Harald Hentschke, Uwe Rudolph, Bernd Antkowiak, Berthold Drexler

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The benzodiazepine midazolam is widely used in critical care medicine. Midazolam has a clinically active metabolite, 1-hydroxymidazolam. The contribution of 1-hydroxymidazolam to the effects of midazolam is controversial. The aim of the current study was to compare the actions of midazolam and 1-hydroxymidazolam on network activity of cortical neurons. Midazolam depressed neuronal activity at a low concentration of 5 nM. When midazolam concentration was increased, it depressed neuronal discharge rates in a biphasic manner. In comparison, 1-hydroxymidazolam did not depress the cortical network activity at low nanomolar concentrations. Higher concentrations of 1-hydroxymidazolam consistently inhibited neuronal activity. Moreover, midazolam shortened cortical up states at low, but not at high concentrations, while the opposite effect was observed with 1-hydroxymidazolam. The network depressant action of midazolam at low concentrations was absent in slices from GABAA receptor α1(H101R)mutant mice. The α1(H101R)mutation renders α1-subunit containing GABAA receptors insensitive towards benzodiazepines. This GABAA receptor subtype is thought to mediate sedation. As midazolam is more potent than its metabolite 1-hydroxymidazolam, the major clinical effects are thus likely caused by midazolam itself. However, 1-hydroxymidazolam could add to the effects of midazolam, especially after the application of high doses of midazolam, and in case of impaired drug metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3503
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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