Considerable evidences support the finding that the anesthesia reagent isoflurane increases neuronal cell death in young rats. Recent studies have shown that dexmedetomidine can reduce isoflurane-induced neuronal injury, but the mechanism remains unclear. We investigated whether isoflurane cause neurotoxicity to the central nervous system by regulating the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) and excitatory amino acid transporter1 (EAAT1) in young rats. Furthermore, we examined if dexmedetomidine could decrease isoflurane-induced neurotoxicity.


Neonatal rats (postnatal day 7, n=144) were randomly divided into four groups of 36 animals each: control (saline injection without isoflurane); isoflurane (2% for 4 h); isoflurane + single dose of dexmedetomidine (75 µg/kg, 20 min before the start of 2% isoflurane for 4 h); and isoflurane + dual doses of dexmedetomidine (25 µg/kg, 20 min before and 2 h after start of isoflurane at 2% for 4 h). Six neonates from each group were euthanatized at 2 h, 12 h, 24 h, 3 days, 7 days and 28 days post-anesthesia. Hippocampi were collected and processed for protein extraction. Expression levels of the NMDAR subunits NR2A and NR2B, EAAT1 and caspase-3 were measured by western blot analysis.


Protein levels of NR2A, EAAT1 and caspase-3 were significantly increased in hippocampus of the isoflurane group from 2 h to 3 days, while NR2B levels were decreased. However, the -induced increase in NR2A, EAAT1 and caspase-3 and the decrease in NR2B in isoflurane-exposed rats were ameliorated in the rats treated with single or dual doses of dexmedetomidine. Isoflurane-induced neuronal damage in neonatal rats is due in part to the increase in NR2A and EAAT1 and the decrease in NR2B in the hippocampus.


Dexmedetomidine protects the brain against the use of isoflurane through the regulation of NR2A, NR2B and EAAT1. However, using the same amount of dexmedetomidine, the trend of protection is basically the same.

Read More