Inhaled anesthetics are known to induce neurotoxicity in the developing brains of rodents, although the mechanisms are not well understood. The aim of this study was to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying anesthetics-induced neurodevelopmental toxicity by VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) through the interaction between microglia and neural stem cells (NSCs) in postnatal day 7 (P7) rats. Cognitive function of P7 rats exposed to isoflurane and sevoflurane were assessed using Morris Water Maze and T maze tests. We also evaluated the expression levels of NSC biomarkers (Nestin and Sox2), microglia biomarker (CD11b or or IBA1), pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and TNF-α), and VEGFR2 using western blotting and immunohistochemistry in the brains of control and anesthesia-treated rats. We found spatial learning and working memory was impaired 2 weeks after anesthetics exposure in rats. Isoflurane induced stronger and more prolonged neurotoxicity than sevoflurane. However, cognitive functions were recovered 6 weeks after anesthesia. Isoflurane and sevoflurane decreased the levels of Nestin, Sox2, and p-VEGFR2, activated microglia, decreased the number of NSCs and reduced neurogenesis and the proliferation of NSCs, and increased the levels of IL-6, TNF-α, and CD11b. Our results suggested that isoflurane and sevoflurane induced cognitive impairment in rats by inhibiting NSC development and neurogenesis via microglial activation, neuroinflammation, and suppression of VEGFR2 signaling pathway.

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Chunlong Zuo et al.
Neurotoxicity Research June 2022