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Anesthesiology. 2002 Oct;97(4):856-67.

Changes in the effect of isoflurane on N-methyl-D-aspartic acid-gated currents in cultured cerebral cortical neurons with time in culture: evidence for subunit specificity.

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  • 1Anesthesiology, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27599, USA.



Developmental changes in NR1 splice variants and NR2 subunits of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor have been associated with changes in the sensitivity of NMDA receptors to agonists, antagonists, and pharmacologic modulators. The authors have investigated changes in the effect of isoflurane on NMDA-gated currents from cultured cortical neurons with time in culture and related these changes to the subunit composition of the NMDA receptors.


N-methyl-D-aspartate-gated currents were measured using whole-cell voltage clamp recording in cortical neurons cultured for 1-4 weeks and HEK 293 cells transiently expressing NR1-1a + NR2A or NR1-1a + NR2B subunit-containing receptors. NMDA alone or NMDA with treatment agents (isoflurane or ifenprodil) was applied to cells using a U tube.


The effect of isoflurane and the NR2B selective antagonist ifenprodil on NMDA-gated currents from cortical neurons decreased significantly with time in culture. NMDA-gated currents mediated by NR2A-containing receptors were less sensitive to isoflurane than those mediated by NR2B-containing receptors. Tachyphylaxis to repeated application of isoflurane was found in cortical neurons and HEK 293 cells with recombinant NMDA receptors. Hooked tail currents were induced by isoflurane in cultured cortical neurons and HEK 293 cells with expressed NMDA receptors.


Isoflurane inhibits NMDA-gated currents at concentrations well below 1 minimum alveolar concentration (MAC). This effect of isoflurane was subunit dependent with the NR2B-containing receptors more sensitive to isoflurane than the NR2A-containing receptors. A potent tachyphylaxis occurred after brief exposure to isoflurane.

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