Numerous studies have shown that the inhaled general anesthetic sevoflurane imposes toxicity on the central nervous system during the developmental period but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) was reported to have important neuroprotective effects, which can attenuate neuronal loss under pathological conditions. However, the effects of NPY on sevoflurane-induced hippocampal neuronal apoptosis have not been investigated. In this study, postnatal day 7 (PND7) Sprague-Dawley rats and primary cultured cells separated from hippocampi were exposed to sevoflurane (2.4% for 4 h) and the NPY expression levels after treatment were analyzed. Furthermore, neuronal apoptosis assay was conducted via immunofluorescence staining of cleaved caspase-3 and flow cytometry after exogenous NPY administration to PND7 rats as well as cultured hippocampal neurons to elucidate the role of NPY in sevoflurane-induced neurotoxicity. Our results showed the level of NPY gradually decreased within 24 h after sevoflurane exposure in both the hippocampus of PND7 rats and cultured hippocampal neurons, but not in cultured astrocytes. In the exogenous NPY pretreatment study, the proportion of cleaved caspase-3 positive cells in the CA1 region of the hippocampus was increased significantly at 24 h after sevoflurane treatment, while NPY pretreatment could reduce it. Similarly, NPY could also reverse the apoptogenic effect of sevoflurane on cultured neurons. Herein, our results showed that sevoflurane caused a significant decrease in NPY expression, whereas exogenous NPY supplementation could reduce sevoflurane-induced hippocampal neuronal apoptosis both in vivo and in vitro.

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