Kava Pyrones and Resin: Studies on GABAA, GABAB and Benzodiazepine Binding Sites in Rodent Brain


Davies LP




Pharmacol Toxicol


Kava, an intoxicating beverage prepared from the pepper plant Piper methysticum, is widely consumed by the indigenous peoples in the islands of the South Pacific. As the first of a series of studies on the neuropharmacological interactions of kava with CNS receptors we tested purified pyrones and kava resin for activity on GABA and benzodiazepine binding sites in rat and mouse brain membranes. Only weak activity was observed on GABAA binding sites in washed synaptosomal membranes prepared from rat brain and this was abolished by extraction of the membranes with Triton X-100, suggesting that lipid soluble components were involved. No effects were observed on GABAB binding sites in rat brain membranes in vitro. Kava resin and pyrones exerted some weak effects on benzodiazepine binding in vitro but this did not correlate with pharmacological activity. In addition, in ex vivo studies, no effects were observed on [3H]diazepam binding to brain membranes prepared from mice in which selected kava constituents were injected intraperitoneally, whereas similarly administered diazepam (5 mg/kg) inhibited [3H]diazepam binding by greater than 95%. Similar lack of activity was observed in in vivo binding studies; injection of kava resin failed to influence the CNS binding of the benzodiazepine-receptor ligand [3H]Ro15-1788 injected into mice prior to sacrifice. The pharmacological activities of kava resin and pyrones do not appear to be explained by any significant interaction with GABA or benzodiazepine binding sites.