Experimental results with nonlinear features and hysteresis characteristics in the pre-breakdown Townsend discharge regime is studied experimentally for a planar microstructure with a GaAs photocathode, an interelectrode gap thickness of 445 p,m and gas pressure in the range 28-66 Torr. An investigation of the effect of the voltage amplitude on the dynamics of transient processes in the semiconductor gas discharge microstructure was made to explain the mechanism of the current decay. A linearly increasing voltage (i.e. 3 Vs(-1) and 5 Vs(-1) voltage rate) was applied to the system to study current instability. The nonlinear transport mechanism of carriers through the cross-section of the discharge gap i.e. the appearance of the spatio-temporal self-organization of a nonlinear dissipative system, non-equilibrium electron motion and autocatalytic effect of carrier accumulation in the gas layer attributed to decrease of current with the increase of applied voltage. It is established that the pre-breakdown current decreases anomalously with increase of the feeding voltage and illumination intensity on the photocathode. The current density change through the cross-section of the discharge gap, i.e. the appearance of the spatio-temporal self-organization of nonlinear dissipative systems, causes these observed effects. On the other hand, the oscillatory current with non-monotonic N-shaped and hysteresis peculiarities in post-breakdown region is known to be related to a nonlinear mechanism of carrier transport in the semiconductor material caused by EL2 defect centres. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.