It is well established that exposure of common anesthetic isoflurane in early life can induce neuronal apoptosis and long-lasting cognitive deficit, but the underlying mechanisms were not well understood. The cell cycle protein Cyclin B1 plays an important role in the survival of postmitotic neurons. In the present study, we investigated whether cyclin B1-mediated cell cycle activation pathway is a contributing factor in developmental isoflurane neurotoxicity.


Postnatal day 7 mice were exposed to 1.2% isoflurane for 6 hours. CR8 (a selective inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases) was applied before isoflurane treatment. Brain samples were collected 6 hours after discontinuation of isoflurane, for determination of neurodegenerative biomarkers and cell cycle biomarkers.


We found that isoflurane exposure leads to upregulated expression of cell cycle-related biomarkers Cyclin B1, Phospho-CDK1(Thr-161), Phospho-n-myc and downregulated Phospho-CDK1 (Tyr-15). In addition, isoflurane induced increase in Bcl-xL phosphorylation, cytochrome c release, and caspase-3 activation that resulted in neuronal cell death. Systemic administration of CR8 attenuated isoflurane-induced cell cycle activation and neurodegeneration.


These findings suggest the role of cell cycle activation to be a pathophysiological mechanism for isoflurane-induced apoptotic cell death and that treatment with cell cycle inhibitors may provide a possible therapeutic target for prevention of developmental anesthetic neurotoxicity.

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