Glutamate transporters located in the plasma membrane of cerebral astrocytes take up excitatory neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft. In diseases characterized by oxidative stress, the extracellular glutamate concentration increases and contributes to neuronal death. The authors wanted to determine whether propofol defends brain cells against oxidant-induced changes in their transport of glutamate.Methods
Primary cultures of rat cerebral astrocytes were exposed to tert-butyl hydroperoxide (1 mM) to serve as an in vitro model of oxidative stress. Astrocytes were incubated with propofol for 2 h and tert-butyl hydroperoxide was added for the final hour. Alternatively, astrocytes were incubated with tert-butyl hydroperoxide for 30 min and then with propofol for another 30 min. Control cells received drug vehicle rather than propofol. The rate of uptake of glutamate, the efflux of the nonmetabolizable analog D-aspartate, and the intracellular concentration of the endogenous antioxidant glutathione were measured.Results
Tert-butyl hydroperoxide decreased the glutathione concentration and inhibited glutamate uptake but had a negligible effect on D-aspartate efflux. At clinically relevant concentrations, propofol did not affect the glutathione concentration but did prevent the effect of tert-butyl hydroperoxide on glutamate transport. Furthermore, the addition of propofol after tert-butyl hydroperoxide reversed the inhibition of glutamate uptake.Conclusions
Propofol prevents and reverses the inhibition of excitatory amino acid uptake in astrocytes exposed to tert-butyl hydroperoxide. The ability of propofol to defend against peroxide-induced inhibition of glutamate clearance may prevent the pathologic increase in extracellular glutamate at synapses, and thus delay or prevent the onset of excitotoxic neuronal death.