MicroRNAs (miRNAs), when subjected to environmental stimuli, can exhibit differential expression. As critical regulators of gene expression, differential miRNA expression has been implicated in numerous disorders of the nervous system. In this study, we focused on the effect of a general anesthetic, as an environmental stimulus, on miRNA expression of the developing brain. General anesthetics have potential long-lasting neurotoxic effects on the developing brain, resulting in behavioral changes in adulthood. We first carried out an unbiased profiling approach to examine the effect of single-episode neonatal general anesthetic, sevoflurance (sevo), exposure on miRNA expression of the brain. Neonatal sevo has a significant effect on the expression of specific miRNAs of the whole brain and the hippocampus that is both immediate – directly after neonatal treatment, as well as long-lasting – during adulthood. Functionally, neonatal sevo-associated miRNA gene-targets share potential neurodevelopmental pathways related to axon guidance, DNA transcription, protein phosphorylation and nervous system development. Our understanding on the role of miRNAs provides a putative epigenetic/molecular bridge that links neonatal general anesthetic’s effect with its associated functional change.

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