Background and Purpose: The pathophysiological role of α 6 -subunit-containing GABA A receptors, which are mainly expressed in cerebellar granule cells, remains unclear. Recently, we demonstrated that hispidulin, a flavonoid isolated from a local herb that remitted a patient's intractable motor tics, attenuated methamphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion in mice as a positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of cerebellar α 6 GABA A receptors. Here, using hispidulin and a selective α 6 GABA A receptor PAM, the pyrazoloquinolinone Compound 6, we revealed an unprecedented role of cerebellar α 6 GABA A receptors in disrupted prepulse inhibition of the startle response (PPI), which reflects sensorimotor gating deficits manifested in several neuropsychiatric disorders. Experimental Approach: PPI disruptions were induced by methamphetamine and NMDA receptor antagonists in mice. Effects of the tested compounds were measured in Xenopus oocytes expressing recombinant α 6 β 3 γ 2S GABA A receptors. Key Results: Hispidulin given i.p. or by bilateral intracerebellar (i.cb.) injection rescued PPI disruptions induced by methamphetamine, ketamine, MK-801 and phencyclidine. Intracerebellar effects of hispidulin were mimicked by Ro15-4513 and loreclezole (two α 6 GABA A receptor PAMs), but not by diazepam (an α 6 GABA A receptor-inactive benzodiazepine) and were antagonized by furosemide (i.cb.), an α 6 GABA A receptor antagonist. Importantly, Compound 6 (i.p.) also rescued methamphetamine-induced PPI disruption, an effect prevented by furosemide (i.cb.). Both hispidulin and Compound 6 potentiated α 6 β 3 γ 2S GABA A receptor-mediated GABA currents. Conclusions and Implications: Positive allosteric modulation of cerebellar α 6 GABA A receptors rescued disrupted PPI by attenuating granule cell activity. α 6 GABA A receptor-selective PAMs are potential medicines for treating sensorimotor gating deficits in neuropsychiatric disorders. A mechanistic hypothesis is based on evidence for cerebellar contributions to cognitive functioning including sensorimotor gating.
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