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Anesthesiology. 1994 Dec;81(6):1527-34.

Perturbation of ion channel conductance alters the hypnotic response to the alpha 2-adrenergic agonist dexmedetomidine in the locus coeruleus of the rat.

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Department of Anesthesia, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.



The alpha 2-adrenergic agonists are members of a novel class of hypnotic-anesthetic agents that selectively bind to alpha 2 adrenoceptors in the locus coeruleus (LC) to initiate their pharmacologic action. The postreceptor molecular mechanism of the hypnotic action of alpha 2-adrenergic agonists remains unknown. In this study we addressed the role of conductance through a variety of calcium and potassium ion channels in the hypnotic action of dexmedetomidine in the LC of the rat.


Cannulas were inserted stereotactically into the LC of halothane-anesthetized rats (n = 318). After at least 48 h, rats were tested for loss of righting reflex in response to administration of the alpha 2-adrenergic agonist dexmedetomidine at a hypnotic (7.0 micrograms LC) or subhypnotic (3.5 micrograms LC) dose. To establish the mediating role of various species of calcium and potassium ion channels in the hypnotic response, rats were pretreated with the following drugs before the administration of dexmedetomidine LC:S(+)202791 (L-type calcium-channel activator), nifedipine and R(-)202791 (L-type calcium-channel blocker), SNX 111 (N-type calcium-channel blocker), SNX 230 (P-type calcium-channel blocker), quinine (calcium-activated and voltage-gated potassium-channel blocker), charybdotoxin (calcium-activated potassium-channel blocker), dendrotoxin (voltage-gated potassium-channel blocker), or glybenclamide (adenosine triphosphate-sensitive potassium-channel blocker). The drugs were used in doses not causing behavioral effects that could have confounded the interpretation of loss of righting reflex.


SNX 230 and the dihydropyridines nifedipine and R(-)202791 produced loss of righting reflex in the presence of a subhypnotic dose of dexmedetomidine. The hypnotic-enhancing effects of the dihydropyridines could be blocked with S(+)202791, which also diminished loss of righting reflex in response to dexmedetomidine 7.0 micrograms LC. Quinine, dendrotoxin, and charybdotoxin each attenuated the hypnotic response to dexmedetomidine 7.0 micrograms LC. The hypnotic response to dexmedetomidine was not significantly altered by SNX 111 or glybenclamide.


Inhibition of ion conductance through L- or P-type calcium channels and facilitation of conductance through voltage-gated or calcium-activated potassium channels may be involved in the mechanism of hypnotic action of alpha 2-adrenergic agonists. These changes in ion conductance were capable of producing membrane hyperpolarization and decreasing neuronal excitability. There was no evidence for the involvement of adenosine triphosphate-sensitive potassium channels or N-type calcium channels in the hypnotic response to dexmedetomidine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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