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Recent electrophysiologic studies indicate that clinical concentrations of volatile general anesthetic agents inhibit central nervous system sodium (Na sup +) channels. In this study, the biochemical effects of halothane on Na sup + channel function were determined using rat brain synaptosomes (pinched-off nerve terminals) to assess the role of presynaptic Na sup + channels in anesthetic effects.Synaptosomes from adult rat cerebral cortex were used to determine the effects of halothane on veratridine-evoked Na sup + channel-dependent Na sup + influx (using22 Na sup +), changes in intrasynaptosomal [Na sup +] (using ion-specific spectrofluorometry), and neurotoxin interactions with specific receptor sites of the Na sup + channel (by radioligand binding). The potential physiologic and functional significance of these effects was determined by measuring the effects of halothane on veratridine-evoked Na sup + channel-dependent glutamate release (using enzyme-coupled spectrofluorometry).Halothane inhibited veratridine-evoked22 Na sup + influx (IC50 = 1.1 mM) and changes in intrasynaptosomal [Na sup +] (concentration for 50% inhibition [IC50] = 0.97 mM), and it specifically antagonized [sup 3 H]batrachotoxinin-A 20-alpha-benzoate binding to receptor site two of the Na sup + channel (IC50 = 0.53 mM). Scatchard and kinetic analysis revealed an allosteric competitive mechanism for inhibition of toxin binding. Halothane inhibited veratridine-evoked glutamate release from synaptosomes with comparable potency (IC50 = 0.67 mM).Halothane significantly inhibited Na sup + channel-mediated Na sup + influx, increases in intrasynaptosomal [Na sup +] and glutamate release, and competed with neurotoxin binding to site two of the Na sup + channel in synaptosomes at concentrations within its clinical range (minimum alveolar concentration, 1–2). These findings support a role for presynaptic Na sup + channels as a molecular target for general anesthetic effects.