The mechanism of the anticonvulsant action of gabapentin has not been fully described. Though similar in structure to the endogenous neurotransmitter GABA, gabapentin has not been shown to bind to GABA receptors at concentrations at or below 1 mM. Gabapentin modulates the action of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) and branched chain aminotransferase (BCAT), two enzymes involved in GABA biosynthesis. In human and rat studies, gabapentin was found to increase GABA biosynthesis, and to increase non-synaptic GABA neurotransmission in vitro.
Gabapentin (0.01-100 µM) has not been shown to interact with the sodium or L-type calcium ion channels targeted by the conventional anticonvulsant drugs phenytoin, carbamazepine and sodium valproate. Other neurophysiological findings indicate that gabapentin does not interact with glutamate, glycine, or NMDA receptors, further distinguishing its anticonvulsant mechanism from that of common antiepileptic medications.