Inhaled anesthetics are believed to produce anesthesia by their actions on ion channels. Because inhaled anesthetics robustly enhance GABA A receptor (GABAA-R) responses to GABA, these receptors are considered prime targets of anesthetic action. However, the importance of GABAA-Rs and individual GABAA-R subunits to specific anesthetic-induced behavioral effects in the intact animal is unknown. We hypothesized that inhaled anesthetics produce amnesia, as assessed by loss of fear conditioning, by acting on the forebrain GABAA-Rs that harbor the α1 subunit. To test this, we used global knockout mice that completely lack the α1 subunit and forebrain-specific, conditional knockout mice that lack the α1 subunit only in the hippocampus, cortex, and amygdala. Both knockout mice were 75 to 145% less sensitive to the amnestic effects of the inhaled anesthetic isoflurane. These results indicate that α1-containing GABAA-Rs in the hippocampus, amygdala, and/or cortex influence the amnestic effects of inhaled anesthetics and may be an important molecular target of the drug isoflurane.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine