Propofol is one of the most used intravenous anesthetic agents, which is widely used in clinical anesthesia induction and maintenance of pediatric patients. Exposure of the developing brain to propofol has been reported to lead to adverse brain changes, which in turn can induce persistent behavioral abnormalities in adulthood. However, the mechanisms by which propofol exposure in the developing brain induces cognitive impairment remain unclear. Here we report that repeated propofol exposure during the second postnatal week impairs spatial learning and memory in young mice. The reduced excitatory synaptic function and synaptogenesis in hippocampal CA1 neurons underlie this cognitive impairment. Propofol exposure specifically activates Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-myeloid differentiation primary response protein 88 (MyD88)-NF-κB signaling pathway. TLR4 deficiency recues propofol exposure-induced synaptic function and cognitive deficits in young mice. Thus, we provide evidence that the activation of the TLR4-mediated pathway by propofol exposure may serve as a crucial trigger for the cognitive impairment in young adulthood caused by repeated exposure to propofol in the developing brain.
Qiao-Ding Dai et al.
Molecular Neurobiology August 2023