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Front Pharmacol. 2012 Mar 30;3:50. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2012.00050. eCollection 2012.

Sodium channels as targets for volatile anesthetics.

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1
Department of Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY, USA.

Abstract

The molecular mechanisms of modern inhaled anesthetics are still poorly understood although they are widely used in clinical settings. Considerable evidence supports effects on membrane proteins including ligand- and voltage-gated ion channels of excitable cells. Na(+) channels are crucial to action potential initiation and propagation, and represent potential targets for volatile anesthetic effects on central nervous system depression. Inhibition of presynaptic Na(+) channels leads to reduced neurotransmitter release at the synapse and could therefore contribute to the mechanisms by which volatile anesthetics produce their characteristic end points: amnesia, unconsciousness, and immobility. Early studies on crayfish and squid giant axon showed inhibition of Na(+) currents by volatile anesthetics at high concentrations. Subsequent studies using native neuronal preparations and heterologous expression systems with various mammalian Na(+) channel isoforms implicated inhibition of presynaptic Na(+) channels in anesthetic actions at clinical concentrations. Volatile anesthetics reduce peak Na(+) current (I(Na)) and shift the voltage of half-maximal steady-state inactivation (h(∞)) toward more negative potentials, thus stabilizing the fast-inactivated state. Furthermore recovery from fast-inactivation is slowed, together with enhanced use-dependent block during pulse train protocols. These effects can depress presynaptic excitability, depolarization and Ca(2+) entry, and ultimately reduce transmitter release. This reduction in transmitter release is more potent for glutamatergic compared to GABAergic terminals. Involvement of Na(+) channel inhibition in mediating the immobility caused by volatile anesthetics has been demonstrated in animal studies, in which intrathecal infusion of the Na(+) channel blocker tetrodotoxin increases volatile anesthetic potency, whereas infusion of the Na(+) channels agonist veratridine reduces anesthetic potency. These studies indicate that inhibition of presynaptic Na(+) channels by volatile anesthetics is involved in mediating some of their effects.

KEYWORDS:

anesthetic mechanism; presynaptic; sodium channels; volatile anesthetics

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