Considerable evidences support the finding that the anesthesia reagent isoflurane increases neuronal cell death in young rats. Recent studies have shown that dexmedetomidine can reduce isoflurane-induced neuronal injury, but the mechanism remains unclear. We investigated whether isoflurane cause neurotoxicity to the central nervous system by regulating the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) and excitatory amino acid transporter1 (EAAT1) in young rats. Furthermore, we examined if dexmedetomidine could decrease isoflurane-induced neurotoxicity.
Neonatal rats (postnatal day 7, n=144) were randomly divided into four groups of 36 animals each: control (saline injection without isoflurane); isoflurane (2% for 4 h); isoflurane + single dose of dexmedetomidine (75 µg/kg, 20 min before the start of 2% isoflurane for 4 h); and isoflurane + dual doses of dexmedetomidine (25 µg/kg, 20 min before and 2 h after start of isoflurane at 2% for 4 h). Six neonates from each group were euthanatized at 2 h, 12 h, 24 h, 3 days, 7 days and 28 days post-anesthesia. Hippocampi were collected and processed for protein extraction. Expression levels of the NMDAR subunits NR2A and NR2B, EAAT1 and caspase-3 were measured by western blot analysis.
Protein levels of NR2A, EAAT1 and caspase-3 were significantly increased in hippocampus of the isoflurane group from 2 h to 3 days, while NR2B levels were decreased. However, the -induced increase in NR2A, EAAT1 and caspase-3 and the decrease in NR2B in isoflurane-exposed rats were ameliorated in the rats treated with single or dual doses of dexmedetomidine. Isoflurane-induced neuronal damage in neonatal rats is due in part to the increase in NR2A and EAAT1 and the decrease in NR2B in the hippocampus.