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Anesth Analg. 2004 Mar;98(3):798-805, table of contents.

Effect of isoflurane on neuronal apoptosis in rats subjected to focal cerebral ischemia.

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Department of Anesthesiology, VA Medical Center and University of California, San Diego, California, USA.


Although isoflurane can reduce ischemic neuronal injury after short postischemic recovery intervals, this neuroprotective efficacy is not sustained. Neuronal apoptosis can contribute to the gradual increase in infarct size after ischemia. This suggests that isoflurane, although capable of reducing early neuronal death, may not inhibit ischemia-induced apoptosis. We investigated the effects of isoflurane on markers of apoptosis in rats subjected to focal ischemia. Fasted Wistar-Kyoto rats were anesthetized with isoflurane and randomly allocated to awake (n = 40) or isoflurane (n = 40) groups. Animals in both groups were subjected to focal ischemia by filament occlusion of the middle cerebral artery for 70 min. Pericranial temperature was servo-controlled at 37 degrees C +/- 0.2 degrees C throughout the experiment. In the awake group, isoflurane was discontinued and the animals were allowed to awaken. In the isoflurane group, isoflurane anesthesia was maintained at 1.5 MAC (minimum alveolar anesthetic concentration). Animals were killed 7 h, 1 day, 4 days, or 7 days after reperfusion (n = 10/group/time point). The area of cerebral infarction was measured by image analysis in a hematoxylin and eosin stained section. In three adjacent sections, apoptotic neurons were identified by TUNEL staining and immunostaining for active caspase-9 and caspase-3. Infarct size was smaller in the isoflurane group than the awake group 7 h, 1 day, and 4 days after reperfusion (P < 0.05). However, this difference was absent 7 days after reperfusion. The number of apoptotic (TUNEL, caspase-3, and caspase-9 positive) cells 1 day after ischemia was significantly more in the awake versus isoflurane group. After a recovery period of 4 or 7 days, the number of apoptotic cells in the isoflurane group was more than in the awake group. After 7 days, the number of caspase-3 and -9 positive neurons was more in the isoflurane group (P < 0.05). The data indicate that isoflurane delays but does not prevent the development of cerebral infarction caused by ischemia. Isoflurane reduced the development of apoptosis early after ischemia but did not prevent it at later stages of postischemic recovery.


The effect of isoflurane on neuronal apoptosis was investigated in rats subjected to focal cerebral ischemia. In isoflurane-anesthetized animals, ischemia-induced apoptosis occurred during the later stages of postischemic recovery. Isoflurane did not inhibit postischemic neuronal apoptosis.

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