The involvement of hypothalamic sleep pathways in general anesthesia: Testing the hypothesis using the GABA A receptor β 3N265M knock-in mouse

Anna Y. Zecharia, Laura E. Nelson, Thomas C. Gent, Mark Schumacher, Rachel Jurd, Uwe Rudolph, Stephen G. Brickley, Mervyn Maze, Nicholas P. Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The GABA A receptor has been identified as the single most important target for the intravenous anesthetic propofol. How effects at this receptor are then translated into a loss of consciousness, however, remains a mystery. One possibility is that anesthetics act on natural sleep pathways. Here, we test this hypothesis by exploring the anesthetic sensitivities of GABAergic synaptic currents in three specific brain nuclei that are known to be involved in sleep. Using whole-cell electrophysiology, we have recorded GABAergic IPSCs from the tuberomammillary nucleus (TMN), the perifornical area (Pef), and the locus ceruleus (LC) in brain slices from both wild-type mice and mice that carry a specific mutation in the GABA A receptor β 3 subunit (N265M), which greatly reduces their sensitivity to propofol, but not to the neurosteroid alphaxalone. We find that this in vivo pattern of anesthetic sensitivity is mirrored in the hypothalamic TMN and Pef nuclei, consistent with their role as direct anesthetic targets. In contrast, anesthetic sensitivity in the LC was unaffected by the β 3N265M mutation, ruling out this nucleus as a major target for propofol. In support of the hypothesis that orexinergic neurons in the Pef are involved in propofol anesthesia, we further show that these neurons are selectively inhibited by GABAergic drugs in vivo during anesthesia, and that a modulation in the activity of Pef neurons alone can affect loss of righting reflex. Overall, our results support the idea that GABAergic anesthetics such as propofol exert their effects, at least in part, by modulating hypothalamic sleep pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2177-2187
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume29
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 18 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anesthesia
  • GABA receptor
  • Histamine
  • Hypothalamus
  • Sleep
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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