General anesthetic potencies of a series of propofol analogs correlate with potency for potentiation of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) current at the GABA(A) receptor but not with lipid solubility JOURNAL OF PHARMACOLOGY AND EXPERIMENTAL THERAPEUTICS Krasowski, M. D., Jenkins, A., Flood, P., Kung, A. Y., HOPFINGER, A. J., Harrison, N. L. 2001; 297 (1): 338-351


A series of 27 analogs of the general anesthetic propofol (2,6-diisopropylphenol) were examined for general anesthetic activity in Xenopus laevis tadpoles and for the ability to produce enhancement of submaximal GABA responses and/or direct activation at recombinant GABA(A) receptors. Fourteen of the propofol analogs produced loss of righting reflex in the tadpoles, whereas 13 were inactive as anesthetics. The same pattern of activity was noted with the actions of the compounds at the GABA(A) alpha(1)beta(2)gamma(2s) receptor. The potencies of the analogs as general anesthetics in tadpoles correlated better with potentiation of GABA responses than direct activation at the GABA(A) alpha(1)beta(2)gamma(2s) receptor. The calculated octanol/water partition coefficients for the analogs did not explain the lack of activity exhibited by the 13 nonanesthetic analogs, although this physicochemical parameter did correlate modestly with in vivo anesthetic potency. The actions of one nonanesthetic analog, 2,6-di-tert-butylphenol, were examined in detail. 2,6-Di-tert-butylphenol was inactive at GABA(A) receptors, did not function as an anesthetic in the tadpoles, and did not antagonize any of the actions of propofol at GABA(A) receptors or in tadpoles. A key influence on the potency of propofol analogs appears to be the size and shape of the alkyl groups at positions 2 and 6 of the aromatic ring relative to the substituent at position 1. These data suggest steric constraints for the binding site for propofol on the GABA(A) receptor.

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