The highly organized laminar structure of the mammalian brain is dependent on successful neuronal migration, and migration deficits can cause lissencephaly and behavioral and cognitive defects. Here, we investigated the contribution of neuronal migration dysregulation to anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity in the fetal brain. Pregnant C57BL/6 mice at embryonic day 14.5 received 2.5% sevoflurane daily for two days. Cortical neuron migration and axon lengths were evaluated using GFP immunostaining. Morris water maze tests were performed to assess the effects of sevoflurane exposure on spatial memory in offspring. We found that sevoflurane exposure decreased axon length and caused cognitive defects in young mice. RNA sequencing revealed that these defects were associated with reduced neuro-oncological ventral antigen 2 (Nova2) expression. In utero electroporation experiments using Nova2 shRNA recapitulated this finding. Nova2 shRNA inhibited neuronal migration and decreased axon lengths. Finally, we found that Netrin-1/Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (Dcc) proteins acted downstream of Nova2 to suppresses neuronal migration. These findings describe a novel mechanism by which prenatal anesthesia exposure affects embryonic neural development and postnatal behavior.

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