Translocator Protein (18 kD) as Target for Anxiolytics Without Benzodiazepine-Like Side Effects

Science  24 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5939, pp. 490-493
DOI: 10.1126/science.1175055

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Keeping Calm

Benzodiazepines are the most prescribed anxiolytics and are used by a broad population. However, benzodiazepines can cause unwanted side effects, including sedation, development of tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms after long-term administration. Rupprecht et al. (p. 490; published online 18 June) now find that a translocator protein (18-kD) ligand, XBD173, is a fast-acting anxiolytic agent, both in animals and humans, which lacks the unwanted side effects of benzodiazepines and provides a promising target for novel clinically effective anxiolytic drugs.


Most antianxiety drugs (anxiolytics) work by modulating neurotransmitters in the brain. Benzodiazepines are fast and effective anxiolytic drugs; however, their long-term use is limited by the development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Ligands of the translocator protein [18 kilodaltons (kD)] may promote the synthesis of endogenous neurosteroids, which also exert anxiolytic effects in animal models. Here, we found that the translocator protein (18 kD) ligand XBD173 enhanced γ-aminobutyric acid–mediated neurotransmission and counteracted induced panic attacks in rodents in the absence of sedation and tolerance development. XBD173 also exerted antipanic activity in humans and, in contrast to benzodiazepines, did not cause sedation or withdrawal symptoms. Thus, translocator protein (18 kD) ligands are promising candidates for fast-acting anxiolytic drugs with less severe side effects than benzodiazepines.

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