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Anesthesiology. 2005 Feb;102(2):346-52.

Opposing actions of etomidate on cortical theta oscillations are mediated by different gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor subtypes.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Section of Experimental Anesthesiology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany.



Cortical networks generate diverse patterns of rhythmic activity. Theta oscillations (4-12 Hz) are commonly observed during spatial learning and working memory tasks. The authors ask how etomidate, acting predominantly via gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors containing beta2 or beta3 subunits, affects theta activity in vitro.


To characterize the effects of etomidate, the authors recorded action potential firing together with local field potentials in slice cultures prepared from the neocortex of the beta3(N265M) knock-in mutant and wild type mice. Actions of etomidate were studied at 0.2 microm, which is approximately 15% of the concentration causing immobility ( approximately 1.5 microm).


In preparations derived from wild type and beta3(N265M) mutant mice, episodes of ongoing activity spontaneously occurred at a frequency of approximately 0.1 Hz and persisted for several seconds. Towards the end of these periods, synchronized oscillations in the theta band developed. These oscillations were significantly depressed in slices from beta3(N265M) mutant mice (P < 0.05). In this preparation etomidate acts almost exclusively via beta2 subunit containing GABAA receptors. In contrast, no depression was observed in slices from wild type mice, where etomidate potentiates both beta2- and beta3-containing GABAA receptors.


At concentrations assumed to cause sedation and amnesia, etomidate depresses theta oscillations via beta2-containing GABAA receptors but enhances these oscillations by acting on beta3 subunit containing receptors. This indicates that the overall effect of the anesthetic reflects a balance between enhancement and inhibition produced by different GABAA receptor subtypes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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