Background: Repeated neonatal exposure to anesthetics may disturb neurodevelopment and cause neuropsychological disorders. The m6A modification participates in the gene regulation of neurodevelopment in mouse fetuses exposed to anesthetics. This study aims to explore the underlying molecular mechanisms of neurotoxicity after early-life anesthesia exposure.

Methods: Mice were exposed to isoflurane (1.5%) or sevoflurane (2.3%) for 2 h daily during postnatal days (PND) 7-9. Sociability, spatial working memory, and anxiety-like behavior were assessed on PND 30-35. Synaptogenesis, epitranscriptome m6A, and the proteome of brain regions were evaluated on PND 21.

Results: Both isoflurane and sevoflurane produced abnormal social behaviors at the juvenile age, with different sociality patterns in each group. Synaptogenesis in the hippocampal area CA3 was increased in the sevoflurane-exposed mice. Both anesthetics led to numerous persistent m6A-induced alterations in the brain, associated with critical metabolic, developmental, and immune functions. The proteins altered by isoflurane exposure were mainly associated with epilepsy, ataxia, and brain development. As for sevoflurane, the altered proteins were involved in social behavior.

Conclusions: Social interaction, the modulation patterns of the m6A modification, and protein expression were altered in an isoflurane or sevoflurane-specific way. Possible molecular pathways involved in brain impairment were revealed, as well as the mechanism underlying behavioral deficits following repeated exposure to anesthetics in newborns.

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Yanqiong Wu et al.
Cell Biology and Toxicology March 2022