Isoflurane neuroprotection in hypoxic hippocampal slice cultures involves increases in intracellular Ca 2+ and mitogen-activated protein kinases

Jonathan J. Gray, Philip E. Bickler, Christian S. Fahlman, Xinhua Zhan, Jennifer A. Schuyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Background: The volatile anesthetic isoflurane reduces acute and delayed neuron death in vitro models of brain ischemia, an action that the authors hypothesize is related to moderate increases in intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca 2+] i). Specifically, the authors propose that during hypoxia, moderate increases in [Ca 2+] i in the presence of isoflurane stimulates the Ca 2+-dependent phosphorylation of members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP) kinase Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK pathway that are critical for neuroprotective signaling and suppression of apoptosis. Methods: Death of CA1, CA3, and dentate neurons in rat hippocampal slice cultures was assessed by propidium iodide fluorescence 48-72 h after 60-75 min of hypoxia. [Ca 2+] i in CA1 neurons was measured with fura-2 and fura-2 FF. Concentrations of the survival-signaling proteins Ras, MEK, MAP kinase p42/44, and protein kinase B (Akt) were assessed by immunostaining, and specific inhibitors were used to ascertain the role of Ca 2+ and MAP kinases in mediating survival. Results: Isoflurane, 1%, decreased neuron death in CA1, CA3, and dentate gyrus neurons after 60 but not 75 min of hypoxia. Survival of CA1 neurons required an inositol triphosphate receptor-dependent increase in [Ca 2+] i of 30-100 nM that activated the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK (p44/42) signaling pathway. Isoflurane also increased the phosphorylation of Akt during hypoxia. Conclusions: Isoflurane stimulates the phosphorylation of survival signaling proteins in hypoxic neurons. The mechanism involves a moderate increase in [Ca 2+] i from release of Ca 2+ from inositol triphosphate receptor-dependent intracellular stores. The increase in [Ca 2+] i sets in motion signaling via Ras and the MAP kinase p42/44 pathway and the antiapoptotic factor Akt. Isoflurane neuroprotection thus involves intracellular signaling well known to suppress both excitotoxic and apoptotic/delayed cell death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)606-615
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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