The possibility that exposure to inhalation anaesthetics inhibits neurogenesis and results in memory deficits has attracted considerable interest over the past decade. This study was designed to investigate the mechanism of the sevoflurane exposure-induced decline in hippocampal neurogenesis. Young mice were anaesthetized with a gaseous mixture of 3.0% sevoflurane/60% oxygen 2 h daily for three consecutive days. Sodium butyrate (NaB) administration began 2 h prior to anaesthesia and continued daily until the end of behavioural tests. The Morris water maze (MWM) test was used to determine spatial learning and memory performance. We assessed the effect of repeated sevoflurane exposure on histone acetylation and the expression of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and its receptor, tropomyosin-related kinase receptor B (TrkB), in the hippocampus by Western blot (WB). To detect neurogenesis, we first counted the number of neural stem cells (NSCs); we then assessed their proliferation level by immunohistochemistry and estimated the number of new-born cells by immunofluorescence. We found that sevoflurane induced learning and memory deficits in young mice 4 weeks after sevoflurane exposure and that NaB injection restored histone acetylation and improved the performance of the mice in the MWM. NaB also increased the number and proliferation of NSCs and neonatal cells, which were inhibited by sevoflurane. Concomitantly, BDNF and TrkB expression, which was decreased by sevoflurane, was also restored by NaB. Our study showed that sevoflurane affects long-term neurocognitive function and neurogenesis in young mice. Normalization of histone acetylation may alleviate the neurodevelopmental side effects of this anaesthetic.

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