A pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship study between GABA-ergic drugs and anxiety levels in an animal model of PTSD / Jacolene Myburgh
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is classified as an anxiety disorder and the characteristic symptoms (re-experiencing, avoidance as well as numbing of general responsiveness and hyperarousal) of this disorder develop in response to a traumatic event. The disorder is characterised by hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis abnormalities linked with changes in cortisol moreover, the hippocampus and cortex also play a role in the neurobiology. With regard to the neurochemistry of this disorder it is known that gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) is involved however, the precise role of GABA in PTSD and how stress changes GABA concentrations in the brain are still not fully understood. Another aspect regarding PTSD that has not been clearly defined is the treatment of PTSD. Classic anxiolytics such as diazepam is expected to relieve the anxiety linked with PTSD. Studies with this group of drugs have however not produced the concrete evidence needed to establish it as a treatment of choice for PTSD and subsequently other classes of drugs have been investigated as possible treatment options for PTSD. Among these is lamotrigine, which in a clinical study was found to be effective in alleviating symptoms of PTSD. Moreover, a possible pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship for each of these drugs has also not been elucidated. In order to elude on some of these uncertainties, an animal model of PTSD, time dependent sensitisation (TDS), was used. GABA levels in the rat hippocampus and frontal cortex were determined at two different time intervals following the TDS procedure (1 day and 7 days post re-stress). High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with electrochemical (EC) detection was used to determine gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) concentrations. To investigate the possible anxiolytic effects of diazepam and lamotrigine in this model, as well as a possible pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship for each drug, pharmacokinetic profiles for both drugs were established in order to find the times of peak and trough levels of each drug. Blood samples were collected at different time intervals after drug administration either from the tail vein of rats (lamotrigine) or directly from the heart (diazepam). Subsequently, drug concentrations at each time interval were determined by means of HPLC with ultraviolet (UV) detection. The behaviour of rats was analysed using the elevated plus-maze (EPM) at peak or trough concentrations of the drugs and this was performed after either acute administration of the drug, or after a 14 day chronic treatment regime. GABA levels in the hippocampus were not found to change statistically significantly in response to stress at either 1 day or 7 days post re-stress. In the frontal cortex, however, GABA levels increased in response to stress at 1 day post re-stress, with a statistically insignificant, but strong trend towards an increase, at 7 days post re-stress. With regard to the pharmacokinetic profiles, the peak concentration of diazepam was found to occur at 60 minutes, with lamotrigine's peak at 120 minutes. The behavioural studies indicated that acute treatment with diazepam 3 mg/kg resulted in a statistically significant increase in both ratio open arm entries and ratio time spent in the open arms at peak level of the drug. After acute treatment with diazepam 3 mg/kg a statistically significant decrease in ratio time spent in open arms was also found when the ratio time spent in open arms at peak level of the drug and the ratio time spent in open arms at trough level of the drug was compared. In response to chronic treatment with diazepam 3 mg/kg for 14 days, test animals exhibited an increase in the ratio open arm entries at trough level of the drug, with a statistically insignificant yet definite trend towards an increase at peak level. Acute treatment with lamotrigine 10 mg/kg resulted in no statistically significant change in EPM parameters. In response to chronic treatment, however, a statistically significant increase was found in ratio time spent in open arms at peak level of the drug, with a statistically insignificant trend towards an increase at trough level. From the results of this study, we may therefore conclude that GABA-levels in the brain are definitely affected, but in different ways, following TDS-stress. A pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship between the drugs' levels and aversive behaviour could also be established. Furthermore it appears that more sustained anxiolytic effects are evident following chronic treatment with both drugs than with acute administration of these drugs.
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