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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 15, 1994; 91(6): 2135–2139.

Use of Drosophila mutants to distinguish among volatile general anesthetics.


The way general anesthetics cause their clinically useful effects on the nervous system is not known. Since the principal determinant of the potency of these agents is their solubility in oil, the role of chemical structure in affecting anesthetic targets has been obscured. In this work, we use an intense beam of light (Tinklenberg, J. A., Segal, I. S., Tianzhi, G. & Maze, M. (1991) Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 625, 532-539) to assess the effect of general anesthetics on the capacity of fruit flies to sense a noxious stimulus and respond to it. By examining the effect of halothane-resistant (har) mutations on the potency of various volatile anesthetics in this assay, we establish similarities and differences between these agents that highlight the was chemical structure influences anesthetic action. In general, the potencies of anesthetics with different chemical structure are affected to different extents by one or more har mutations. However, three anesthetics of related structure (enflurane, isoflurane, and desflurane) show quantitatively indistinguishable alterations in potency in each of four genetic tests. These results not only identify important structural features of anesthetics but also place limits on the classical view that all anesthetics act at a common target.

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Selected References

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