Propofol is one of the most commonly used intravenous drugs to induce and maintain general anesthesia. In vivo and in vitro studies have shown that propofol can affect neuronal growth, leading to apoptosis and impairing cognitive function. The Abelson nonreceptor tyrosine kinase (c-Abl) is associated with both neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. This study aimed to explore the effect of propofol on apoptosis and neurocognition through its regulation of c-Abl expression in vivo and in vitro.

Materials and methods

In this study, primary hippocampal neurons were cultured and exposed to propofol at different concentrations. Protein expression was measured by Western blotting and coimmunoprecipitation. The c-Abl transcription level was verified by fluorescence quantitative PCR. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels were detected by flow cytometry. In addition, an animal experiment was conducted to assess neuronal apoptosis by immunofluorescence staining for caspase-3 and to evaluate behavioral changes by the Morris water maze (MWM) test.


The in vitro experiment showed that propofol significantly decreased c-Abl expression and ROS levels. In addition, propofol has no cytotoxic effect and does not affect cell activity. Moreover, in the animal experiment, intraperitoneal injection of 50 mg/kg propofol for 5 days obviously decreased the expression of c-Abl in the neonatal rat brain (p < .05) but did not significantly increase the number of caspase-3-positive cells. Propofol treatment did not significantly reduce the number of platform crossings (p > .05) or prolong the escape latency of neonatal rats (p > .05) in the MWM test.


The present data suggest that reduced expression of this nonreceptor tyrosine kinase through consecutive daily administration of propofol did not impair learning or memory function in neonatal rats.

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