This study explored the effects of sevoflurane exposure during different stages of pregnancy on the brain development of offspring.
Thirty-six pregnant SD rats were randomly divided into 4 groups: control, sevoflurane exposure in early (S1) pregnancy, sevoflurane exposure in middle (S2) pregnancy, and sevoflurane exposure in late (S3) pregnancy. After natural birth, the learning and memory capacity of offspring rats was analyzed using the Morris water maze experiment. The hippocampi of offspring rats were collected. The levels of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in the hippocampus were measured by ELISA. Additionally, the Nissl bodies in the hippocampus were analyzed using Nissl staining. Immunohistochemistry was used to examine the expression of BDNF and CPEB2 in the hippocampus of offspring. Proteins related to the NR4A1/NF-κB pathway were analyzed using western blotting.
The memory and learning capacity of offspring rats was significantly reduced in the S1 and S2 groups compared to the control group (p < 0.05), while there was no obvious difference between the control and S3 groups (p > 0.05). The level of IL-1β was significantly increased (p < 0.05) in the S1 group compared with the control group. Sevoflurane anesthesia received in early and middle pregnancy could significantly affect the formation of Nissl bodies in the hippocampi of offspring rats. In addition, the expression of BDNF and CPEB2 in the hippocampi of offspring rats was greatly decreased in the S1 group compared with the control group (p < 0.05). The expression of NR4A1 in the hippocampi of rat offspring was significantly decreased in the S1 and S2 groups compared with the control group (p < 0.05). The expression of proteins related to the NF-κB pathway was increased in the S1 group compared to the control group (p < 0.05).
The neurotoxic effect of maternal sevoflurane anesthesia on the brain development of offspring is higher when the exposure occurs in early pregnancy than in late pregnancy, and its mechanism might involve the NR4A1/NF-κB pathway to increase the secretion of inflammatory cytokines.