Background: The underlying molecular mechanisms of the excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) imbalance induced by sevoflurane exposure to neonates remain poorly understood. This study aimed to investigate the long-term effects of prolonged sevoflurane exposure to neonatal rats during the peak period of synaptogenesis on the changes of trans-synaptic neurexin-neuroligin interactions, synaptic ultrastructure in the hippocampus and cognition.

Methods: A total of 30 rat pups at postnatal day (P) 7 was randomly divided into two groups: the control group (exposed to 30 % oxygen balanced with nitrogen) and the sevoflurane group (exposed to 2.5 % sevoflurane plus 30 % oxygen balanced with nitrogen) for 6 h. Neurocognitive behaviors were assessed with the Open field test at P23-25 and the Morris water maze test at P26-30. The expression of β-neurexin (β-NRX), N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor 2 subunit (NR2A and NR2B), neuroligin-1 (NLG-1), neuroligin-2 (NLG-2), postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95), α1-subunit of the γ-aminobutyric acid A receptor (GABAAα1) and gephyrin in the hippocampus at P30 were measured by Western blot. The ultrastructure of synapses was examined under electron microscope.

Results: Prolonged sevoflurane exposure at P7 resulted in cognitive deficiency in adolescence, as well as the downregulation of β-NRX, NR2A, NR2B, NLG-1, and PSD-95, and the upregulation of GABAAα1, NLG-2, and gephyrin in the hippocampal CA3 region. Sevoflurane anesthesia also increased the number of symmetric synapses in the hippocampus.

Conclusions: Prolonged sevoflurane exposure during the brain development leads to cognitive deficiency and disproportion of excitatory/inhibitory synapses which may be caused by dysregulated expression of synaptic adhesion molecules of β-NRX and neuroligins.

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Wenhua Zhang et al.
Journal of Affective Disorders June 2022